Planes made it easier to reach far-flung destinations. They have hauled people and cargo over great distances for so many years. But while they are made of very strong yet lightweight materials that could withstand the atmosphere above the clouds, what happens to them when an airline no longer wants to use them? Airplanes do not have a use-by-expiry-date tag, but they do have a serviceable age. Based on industry practice, the still flight-worthy ones are bought by other airlines. Others that can no longer be used are placed in an aircraft graveyard where they will eventually be taken apart and sold as scrap. That’s the sad part. But there’s reason to cheer because a number of creative and enterprising minds have come up with some interesting solutions to put old planes to good use. Here are some of them.
1. Jumbo Stay, Stockholm, Sweden
Another Boeing plane, this time a 747-200 was put to good use in Stockholm, Sweden. The plane was converted into a 29-room hostel by Oscar Diös. It’s a very clever idea, since a plane usually provides for a comfortable ride over great distances, and the hostel, called Jumbo Stay, continues to provide a comfortable place for weary travellers to have hours of rest. Its location is also deal, as the plane or hostel is parked near the Arlanda Airport in Sweden. You can choose to stay in the luxurious and exclusive cockpit suite or save money and stay in one of Jumbo Stay’s dormitories. It is quite an experience staying at Jumbo Stay, because it is just 65 feet or about 20 meters from the airport’s airside, right next to the runway. Jumbo Stay has an on-board bar and an area reserved for a communal lounge, with some seats restored, so people can relax while socializing.
2. Jet Limo, Los Angeles, California, United States
Limo Bob is the builder and owner of Jet Limo, a 50-seater stretch limousine made out of an airplane. It used a retired Boeing 727 plane, remodeled it and removed its wings and other parts. It is operated as a taxi that could be rented for $100,000 a month or if someone fancies owning it, the jet limo has a tag price of US$1 million. If you can afford its rental cost, it is a grand and literally an eye-catching way to tour around Los Angeles.
Limo Bob started out in the 1970s but a series of mishaps brought him down time and again. He persevered and built up his company several times until he formed the Limo Bob Enterprises and became known as the world’s builder, seller and renter of the finest, exotic and longest limousines you’ll ever see. The Jet Limo is truly one of the longest limousines in the world and it could be labelled as exotic as well.
3. The 747 Wing House, Malibu, California, United States
The deserts of California has several abandoned planes that are being sold cheaply, basically for the price of the available recyclable material – aluminium. When Malibu, California resident Francie Rehwald told architect David Randall Hertz she wanted a curvy house, the architect, who is the founder of the Studio of Environmental Architecture, suggested that a good source of building materials is an old Boeing 747. The wings of the plane were used as the roof of what would eventually be called the Wing House. The price of the airplane parts was just $40,000. The cost involved in the dismantling of the plane, the transport of the parts to the residential location and the restructuring of the home was several times more than the cost of the parts, but it was all worth it. But they had to wait for several years for the FAA registration so that the roof of the house could not be mistaken for an aircraft that is still in service. It received plenty of publicity not only for its use of recycled materials but also for the uniqueness of its design as well as the dramatic transport of the airplane parts.
4. The Cosmic Muffin, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
If you have been to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, you might have seen a houseboat in the area that looks like the front part of a plane. If you say the “front part of a plane” then you are absolutely right. But it is also a historical one. Why? Because the plane, a Boeing 307 Stratoliner used to belong to legendary pilot, Howard Hughes. The plane was retired in 1969 and was brought back to life by Dave Drimmer. The 46-foot long Cosmic Muffin, the name given to the (plane) boat sometimes go on display in different areas for its historical value. At other times, it is available for charter, according to the owner.
It cuts an imposing and intriguing figure against the waterways of Fort Lauderdale not only because of its length, which is 46 feet, but also for its odd shape and the absence of portholes. What about its name? It was renamed as such when the novel “Where is Joe Merchant?” by singer Jimmy Buffet was published. One of the characters in the novel was Desdemona, a psychic whose rocket ship was called Cosmic Muffin, which, according to the novel, was patterned after an abandoned plane fuselage that used to be owned by Howard Hughes.
5. DC-6 Diner, Coventry, United Kingdom
The DC-6 Diner is a restored 1958 Douglas DC-6 plane. It can sit 40 guests and affords a great view of the Coventry Airport runway from its nearby location. The DC-6 Diner is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that had been featured in “Casino Royale,” the 2006 Bond movie.
Dining inside an airplane does not suit everyone’s taste, but the experience of dining in the cabin of a transatlantic plane is something that would immensely appeal to aviation enthusiasts. Just like when a plane is in flight, summoning a waiter is done by pressing an overhead button. The menu has quirky names, courtesy of the chef, Tony Caunce, who borrowed the names of old military planes, so you can order a Meteor marinade fillet, or a Vampire gammon, a Bomber T-bone steak or an 8oz Rapide steak. An onboard bar is located at the cockpit.
The DC-6 Diner is also part of the Coventry Airport Airbase exhibition. Nearby is a display of 30 Air Atlantique planes. The diner could be a venue for small corporate events, private meetings or small gatherings. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
6. Hotel Costa Verde, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
If you’d seen it without knowing its history, you’d think that a plane had crash-landed at the Manuel Antonio National Park. Actually, the restored and converted plane, a 1965 Boeing 727, is a luxury hotel suite of the Hotel Costa Verde in Costa Rica. Since it is located in the jungle canopy of the park, it gives hotel guests great scenic views from up high. Another plane, a C-123 Fairchild is also used by the hotel as a pub called El Avión, were the dumbwaiter on the old fuselage is used to deliver the food straight from the kitchen.
The jet has been converted into an awesome two-bedroom suite, which has become a favourite venue for romance, weddings and honeymoons. It juts out from its concrete perch 50 feet up in the air, which gives visitors a sense of really flying as they gaze out the windows. Hand carved teak was used for the interior furnishings, together with en suite facilities and custom-built luxuries, all in an effort to pamper its valuable guests.
7. Kindergarten in a plane, Rustavi, Georgia
One very innovative and clever use of a retired plane is found in Rustavi, Georgia in Eurasia. The plane, a Yakovlev Yak-42 was bought by headmaster Gari Chapidze from Georgian Airways and had it transported from the Tbilisi Airport to Rustavi. He then had it transformed into a classroom for kindergarten students. The Yakovlev Yak-42 was the first jet manufactured in Russia.
The 120-seater jet’s interior had been renovated and fitted with bright tables and chairs and equipped with toys, games and other educational materials. The cockpit was not touched so that the children can play with its more than a thousand knobs and buttons. Children can enjoy being pretend-pilots while in the cockpit.
It took Mr. Chapidze several months to renovate the plane. He was worried that his idea might not appeal to parents. But his worries were nullified by the overwhelming response of the parents, as well as the 20 currently enrolled kindergarteners to their unique classroom.
8. The New Jalisco Library, Guadalajara, Mexico
This is just a concept that has not seen fruition yet, although it is environmentally sound and makes good use of old planes. The design concept was submitted by New York architectural firm, LOT-EK during the design competition for the New Jalisco Library to be built in Guadalajara, Mexico. The firm is known for the beautifully designed offices and homes made from recycled shipping containers. For the project, the New York architects designed a library building that will make use of 200 fuselage sections of Boeing 727 and Boeing 737 jets. Apparently the fuselages are rarely used when planes are demolished since the profit to be gained from the sale of aluminium is less than the cost of the demolition, according to Noticias Arquitectura. Thus, these airplane parts are sold cheaply.
LOT-EK submitted their design for the library in 2006, showing a stack of fuselages slanting in a north-south direction to take full advantage of the sun, which will help in the efficient use of energy.
The new Jalisco Library opened in 2012, albeit it has a different design but the concept submitted by LOT-EK ranks among the best for its brilliant and creative way to recycle old planes, with a slant on making it an eco-friendly and energy-efficient building.
9. Airplane Suite, The Netherlands
Just like the old plane that had been converted into a luxury hotel suite of Hotel Costa Verde, the Airplane Suite is a 1960-made Ilyushin 18 that has been fully converted into a luxury suite that’s good for two. The plane is installed near the Teuge Airport. You could say that it is the epitome of luxury (by airline standards), as the hotel suite provides first class facilities, such as an infrared sauna, separate shower, Jacuzzi, air conditioning, a mini bar, free WiFi, a combination oven and microwave, a Blue-Ray DVD player, a wide selection of DVDs which you can watch from any of the suite’s three flat screen TVs. You can also prepare your own tea or coffee with the provided appliances. Get this! The management promises to cater to all your wishes. But of course you still have to abide by their strict house rules, which is the same as in any first class hotel in the world.
The airline suite also functions as a private corporate meeting place, with a complete line of technical equipment needed for business meetings, as well as catering services. For high-level business meetings, the Airline Suite can accommodate 10 to 20 persons. Just imagine how convenient it is to get from the airport to the venue for a business meeting, or having such luxurious surroundings for some alone time with your partner.
If your taste in furnishing turns toward the avant-garde, or you are an aviation enthusiast, know that there is a company called MotoArt that turns airplane parts into fantastic, futuristic and artistic furniture. There are several companies that specialize in creating furniture items out of old planes, but MotoArt is the leader in the field.
The company, which is based in California and has branches in selected countries, have been designing items such as sculptures, chairs, tables and beds for more than 10 years. Their furniture pieces grace major buildings around the world. They have turned the wings of B-25 into desks and created martini tables from the propellers of DC-3 planes. The company’s website shows the awesome range of products they create from airplane parts, especially their highly polished, tempered glass-topped conference tables.