To me, flying is the hurdle you jump to get somewhere fun. Ive never had an attraction to planes. Airplanes are inconvenient sky buses accessed only through soul-crushing security lines we have to share with tacky people and business dicks. Airplanes are the journey; Im more of a destination gal.
That may have changed a few weeks ago when I walked up the dusty wing of a retired 727, through the emergency door, and into a 1,000 square foot home. With a cockpit.
Owner Bruce Campbell has been living in this bird (he calls planes birds) in the suburbs of Portland for the better part of 18 years, and hopes his passion project can turn into a movement to salvage what are still functional, weatherproof structures, while providing some cool housing options to boot.
And if youre thinking this sounds like just the gimmicky style of housing that Portland drools over, youre right.
I began corresponding with Campbell over a year ago, after Id heard about his airplane home project and approached him for a story. Hes always happy to meet with press, or just about any other snoopy looky-loo, and not only did he agree, he regularly replied with 1000-word emails. Bruce was overseas, and had a return ticket booked, but hey, maybe I could pick him up from the airport and drive him to Hillsboro?
Of course I could pick up this stranger from the airport and drive him to Hillsboro. After all, I did need a story. Besides, Id never done plane-to-plane transport before. When else could I pretend I was a big airport monorail?
It was a long drive to Hillsboro, and the big highways turned into suburban boulevards and smaller and smaller country roads until eventually Bruce pointed to a steep dirt driveway, telling me wed need to get some speed to make it up. It would be getting dark soon. There had been damage to the trees during our winter storms, and nothing had been cleared yet. I backed up my Honda and let her fly (not literally) up a muddy hill, dodging branches, at dusk. It was a tense couple of minutes that paid off when the road flattened out and the trees cleared enough to reveal the giant nose of an airplane peeking out of the forest, like a sneaky, huge, aerodynamic wolf. With the setting sun, the drizzle, and the trees, youd think it was a movie. It was so beautiful.
And weird. Airplanes go in the sky and in hangars, not on some private acreage in the suburbs.
But they can.
According to Bruce, an average of three jetliners are retired on a daily basis. When an old plane gets the boot, the engines are removed, because those stay valuable, but the rest of the plane isnt so precious. Bruce describes the process as shredding, where this giant metal flying tube made by millions of dollars of brain and labor power is reduced to piles of metal and loose wires.
Bruceand a couple of other ambitious nerds like himbelieve that empty planes have much more potential. They are weatherproof, soundproof buildings on wheels that only get junked because thats what happens. Bruce envisions a future where the planes are driven off a runway or out of a hangar and into a housing park for a quiet second life.
Because get this: Airlines dont have to sell the planes to scrappers. Anyone can buy one, you just have to put up one more dollar than the scrappers would pay, which can be less than $100,000. A decked-out tiny house can run upwards of $50,000, and those dont have more than a thousand square feet of living space, multiple bathrooms, a ton of free chairs, and a freakin cockpit. Then, all you need is some land thats zoned residentialwhich I guess is easy enough. THEN you need to know how to attach plumbing for a septic tank and fresh well water, and run electricity. There have got to be people in this dweeby city who can do that, right? Arent we always complaining about all the techies whove moved here?
The Boeing 727 is a commercial jetliner thats been around since the 1960s. It was designed for regional flights and smaller airports, so Boeing gave it its own set of stairs. The stairs fold out of the plane in the back, below the tail, accessed by a door between the two back bathrooms with an exit sign over it. It didnt initially occur to Boeing that people might want to use the exit mid-flight, so they didnt put in a locking mechanism, which was a design flaw (or feature!) that enabled one D.B. Cooper to parachute out of a 727 with a bag of money in 1971. Boeing later added a locking mechanism called the Cooper vane, so dont get any ideas.
Besides, not a lot of 727s are still in use. They have three engines, which makes it sound like a noisy birdsay a crow, or a mean goose. Also, the 727 needed a flight engineer, which called for a third person in the cockpit (and another paycheck to write). The engineer sat at his or her own desk in the cockpit (behind where Chewbacca sits), with lots of dials and buttons. Quieter, more self-sufficient jets came onto the scene, and I dont understand how you could go from needing three engines and three people in the cockpit to only needing two, but it happened, making the 727 less desirable. Bye-bye, airstairs. Bye-bye, flight engineer.
This specific 727 is a castaway from Olympic Air, a Greek airline. A cool claim to fame: Its the last plane Aristotle Onassis ever rode in! Bruce pointed to the floor, where we could see through some plexiglass and into the cargo hold. He was down there. Poor old Ari didnt appreciate the flight because he was dead and in a casket. However, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and some rich Greeks sat in these very seats, which are now softened and greyed by years of use in the days when people still smoked in planes. (Bruce said the ashtrays were still loaded with butts when he got her. Remember smoking?)
It was retired at some point in the mid-90s, and the airline was willing to unload it for cheap right around the time that Bruce got this twinkle in his eye. He bought it for $100,000 in cash in 1999. It was flown to the Hillsboro airport intact, then driven to the fairgrounds across the street to be stripped.
This is the part of the story where Bruce gets sad. Hed hired scrappers to unload what he didnt want in his plane, but he very much wanted all the visuals to remain. Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication and rookie mistakes, the plane got torn up pretty good. The cockpit now drips with ends of orphaned wires and is missing more knobs than its got. Bruce has had to improvise wiring because what could have been usable was irreparably damaged. The salvage crew is the villain in this story. Stupid salvage jerks.
Bruce got the plane to his property by removing the wings and tail and having it hauled in pieces. (Apparently you cant just drive a jet through downtown Hillsborowhich is the second villain in this story.) He put it back together on his land, then settled in.
I liked visiting Campbells airplane home because I could envision how Id lay out my furniture if I had the money and time and patience and diligence and technical savvy to buy one of my own. Other peoplesmarter peoplewould love to visit the home to see all those knobs and wires. I asked about cable TV (none) and pooping (septic tank).
The carpet inside the cabin has been taken out and the flooring is now clear plexiglass so you can see down into the cargo areas. This also reveals a lot of technology. As a person with only a rudimentary understanding of how planes fly in the first place, I was not surprised to see so many cranks and knobs and wires. This does ________, Bruce would say. Ahhh, I nodded, as if it made sense.
He has the interior divided into two rooms by a Styrofoam wall. The front area is open, with the planes seats lining one wall, and the cockpit in front. Since it was stripped of a lot of the cool stuff by the scrappers, its got a post-apocalyptic vibe. Bruce was patient to let me conduct most of my interview up there, beneath the buttons and gears and wires, in front of big windows staring out at the forest.
The backexcuse me, the aftarea is his living space. There he has two working bathrooms in their original orientation. Off to the side, hes made a small shower enclosure, with a drain on the floor. Its not super private, but he lives alone, and doesnt have neighbors peeking through one of his 100 tiny windows. Theres a washing machine, a refrigerator, a tiny sink, and a microwave. He doesnt have a stove but I couldnt figure out if that was because he couldnt have one (ventilation?) or doesnt want one. Apart from being a metal tube, it was your basic single guys studio apartment.
Theres no wood in the plane, and without gasoline and moving parts, its pretty much fireproof. However, this also means that humidity is an issue. Boogers must be an issue, too.
Bruce pointed out that in addition to being perfectly insulated, planes are pretty much 100 percent earthquake proof. No earthquake would ever be as powerful as a hard landing, which the planes landing gear is made to withstand. Bruces plane also has other jostle-proof safety features, as well as hundreds of cans of food. This project didnt start as survivalism, but it sure could survive a lot.
As it started to get dark, Bruce and I made our way around the outside of the plane while he turned on water and performed other tasks one does when one owns a plane house and returns from overseas. When we got back inside, water was pouring out of the ceiling, back by where the flight attendants used to make coffee. Bruce was completely stress-free as water poured all over the floor and he started pulling things apart. An easy fix! he exclaimed. I dumbly offered to help, and when he smartly refused, I let him know it was time for me to go.
Planes have manuals, and houses have Home Depot, but theres no guide for how to combine the two. There are a couple of other people with airplane home projects in the United States, and they can bounce ideas off one another, but everybody is pretty much winging it. (HA HA, WING.) I asked Bruce how often yahoos with wild dreams ask for advice on how to get their own planes. He said it happens fairly regularly, but people give up when they realize they cant get housing basics like conventional mortgages or insurance.
On the long drive home, I wondered if I could do it. IF I had the money, IF I had the patience, IF I had the technical savvy, and IF I had the time, could I live in an airplane home? Probably, once there were systems in place for them to be comfortable and not drafty and if we could retrofit the bathroom sinks so I could get my hands all the way under the faucet. Also Id probably get nervous about falling off the wing while walking in with groceries during a rain.
But this silly city is a smart one, and I wouldnt be surprised if some nerds exhausted by the tiny home movement didnt try starting an airplane home movement instead. Bruce would certainly love that. Hed even talk you through some DIY plumbing. And maybe it could become a home where even a flying hater like me could get warm and comfy.
Read more here:
- Return to your roots: Gardening a great solution to cope with stress of pandemic - The Independent - May 24th, 2020
- Else Blangsted, Who Fled the Nazis and Found a Hollywood Ending, Dies at 99 - The New York Times - May 24th, 2020
- Inside ultra-luxurious disaster survival kits where super-rich can pay 4k for night vision goggles and posh - The Sun - May 24th, 2020
- Far More Valuable Than a Stockpile of Food and Money - Investment U - May 19th, 2020
- Eat this Now (Because You Have to): Terrible Homemade Bread - Kansas City Pitch - May 15th, 2020
- Survivor Is the Quintessential TV Show - The Ringer - May 15th, 2020
- Documentary shows life in the 'Biosphere' wasn't out of this world - Arlington Catholic Herald - May 15th, 2020
- I didn't think a pandemic would bring out the domestic goddess in me - Metro.co.uk - May 11th, 2020
- How to avoid the end times - The Japan Times - March 24th, 2020
- Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two) - CounterPunch - February 27th, 2020
- Veteran Analyst Warns of XRP Crash to $0.20 as Price Stumbles - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Could Be on Verge of Explosive Breakout Higher, Taking It 100% Higher - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Just Flipped a Key Resistance Into Support: Why This is Bullish - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- Ripple Is On The Verge Of A New Rally According To Analysts - Somag News - February 27th, 2020
- West Ham need something drastic to kickstart a revival they might not get it in the Premier League - FourFourTwo - January 25th, 2020
- Lost in Space Season 3 Releasing on Netflix and Dr. Smith Will Return - Honk News - January 25th, 2020
- When Is Lost In Space Season 3 Coming Out On Netflix And Dr. Smith Returning Possibilities - The Digital Wise - January 25th, 2020
- The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 1/15/20: Survivalism - UPROXX - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin Indicator That Called Rally to $14000 Flashes Again - BTCNN - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin just cracked $8,500, and it means bulls are taking control - CryptoSlate - January 18th, 2020
- Ethereum Forms a Bearish Rejection Just Below a Key Resistance Level - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- The Explosion In This One Metric Is Bullish for Bitcoins Price - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Why An Analyst Thinks XRP Price Has Further to Fall - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Would a Virginia bill really ban dads from teaching sons how to use hunting rifles? - PolitiFact - December 18th, 2019
- Amazon's holiday gift to Orlando's sci-fi fans is a revitalized season of 'The Expanse' - Orlando Weekly - December 13th, 2019
- Market Experts Weigh in on the Next Major Mergers & Acquisitions in Media - Observer - November 21st, 2019
- A brief history of John Krasinski's transformation into a guy who absolutely loves the CIA - Business Insider - November 21st, 2019
- Richard Tobin of Brooklawn accused of conspiring to initimidate minorities - Courier Post - November 21st, 2019
- The Terminator Created a New Kind of Hero With Kyle Reese - Yahoo Entertainment - October 27th, 2019
- Bitcoin Might Head To The $6,000 Region In The Near-Term According to Wyckoff Logic - ZyCrypto - October 17th, 2019
- Low Tide Review: The Goonies Meets The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Sharp Coming-of-Age Thriller - IndieWire - October 4th, 2019
- As the climate collapses, we can either stand together or perish alone - The Guardian - October 4th, 2019
- Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes - Locus Online - October 4th, 2019
- Oregon 'Hate Map' Reveals 11 Racist, Separatist Hate Groups In The State - Patch.com - August 18th, 2017
- Doomsday Desperation - Southern Poverty Law Center - August 18th, 2017
- 'American Made' Review: Tom Cruise Flies Between Comedy and Tension, Missing Both - TheWrap - August 18th, 2017
- North Korea: Nuclear War Fears Spur Sales of Preparedness Goods ... - Fortune - August 14th, 2017
- For Doomsday Preppers, the End of the World Is Good for Business - New York Times - August 13th, 2017
- Film Review: Good Time - Consequence of Sound (blog) - August 13th, 2017
- What I Learned From the Neo-Nazi in My Prison Book Club | The ... - The Marshall Project - August 11th, 2017
- Nine Inch Nails - Webster Hall, New York City - Gigs - Reviews ... - Soundblab - August 11th, 2017
- Film Review: The Glass Castle Fails on Almost Every Level - Splice Today - August 11th, 2017
- If North Korea targets Guam, how should the US respond? - Fox News - August 11th, 2017
- Naked - slantmagazine - August 10th, 2017
- Noir Thriller Wind River Examines An Ignored America - Willamette Week - August 10th, 2017
- Silicon Valley luminaries are busily preparing for when robots take ... - Mashable - August 10th, 2017
- Review: Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is as Riveting as it is Groundbreaking - First Showing (blog) - July 23rd, 2017
- Do you Have What it Takes to be a Christian Survivalist? - CBN News - July 19th, 2017
- Morning Star :: No growth but lots of opportunities | The People's Daily - Morning Star Online - July 19th, 2017
- 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Review: Finale of biblical proportions - Rappler - July 18th, 2017
- Queued Up: 'The Lego Batman Movie,' 'XX,' 'Logan,' and More - Aquarian Weekly - July 12th, 2017
- Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes - Consequence of Sound (blog) - July 11th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ... - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - July 8th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ineffably creepy - Norwich Evening News - July 8th, 2017
- DJ CherishTheLuv, Music Missionary - HuffPost - June 30th, 2017
- What it Means to Finish Pikes Peak + Results - Hot Rod Network - Hot Rod Network - June 29th, 2017
- 'It Comes at Night' a Spellbinding Tale of Family and Survival - Shepherd Express - June 29th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Charleston Express - June 26th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Arkansas News - June 25th, 2017
- Where billionaires are stockpiling land for the apocalypse: Map - The Real Deal Magazine - June 19th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - Business Insider Nordic - June 17th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - SFGate - June 15th, 2017
- Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse here's where they're going - The Advocate - June 15th, 2017
- Next "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana - KRTV Great Falls News - June 11th, 2017
- Veteran teaches disaster preparation skills at Heights library - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 10th, 2017
- It Comes At Night stars on survivalism, the apocalypse - WDEF News 12 - June 9th, 2017
- Recently unveiled documents reveal anarchist strand festered at Evergreen for nearly a decade - The College Fix - June 9th, 2017
- Margaret Atwood on the utopias hiding inside her dystopias and why there is no the future - Vox - June 9th, 2017
- Humanity 2.0: The Unstoppability of Singularity - HuffPost - June 8th, 2017
- Upcoming "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KTVQ Billings News - June 6th, 2017
- Survivalist shares experience in Harker Heights - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 5th, 2017
- Click Your Hiking Boots Together: Oz Farm Is NorCal's Eco ... - 7x7 - June 3rd, 2017
- You'll Find Far Cry 5 ProvocativeEven if It's a Mess - WIRED - June 1st, 2017
- 'Alien: Covenant' and the Nature of Horror - Film School Rejects - June 1st, 2017
- Via 'The Florida Project,' meet two of the youngest stars in Cannes Film Festival history - Los Angeles Times - June 1st, 2017
- Alien 3 is far from the worst Alien movie. In fact, it's pretty great. - Vox - Vox - May 23rd, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Grand Forks Herald - May 14th, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Duluth News Tribune - May 11th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - May 9th, 2017
- Homesteading and Survivalism Living a simple life - May 6th, 2017