Is It A Home? Is It A Plane?
Every time you board a plane, your top priority is to get to your desired destination, safe and sound. However, when one retired engineer bought a plane for $100,000, he knew that he wouldn’t need to go far to make his dream come true. Oregon-native Bruce Campbell knew exactly what he wanted to do with this Boeing 727 Airliner. He has shown step by step how he transformed the plane into something completely different – a home.
In order to fully appreciate the journey this plane went through, we need to understand the genius behind the project – Bruce Campbell. A man who describes himself as an “old nerd,” Bruce admits that he might not be the most social person in the world. The 67-year-old has never tied the knot with anyone. After spending many years trying to further technology, the retired electrical engineer was ready to become a little self-indulgent and treat himself with his own vision.
Life Is An Adventure
Bruce’s solitude stretches way beyond his years of retirement. However, it’s not as if the former engineer lives a monastic life, by any means. The man from Oregon simply likes to do things his way. Make no mistake about it though, nothing he does is without a sense of adventure. Think of a Walter White who never “broke bad.” When the man was in his 20s, he bought a plot of land that stretched ten acres in the woods, close to Portland.
Bruce Campbell has developed such a deep love for all things air-based that he can’t understand why anyone would just destroy a perfectly good, albeit retired, airliner. To him, it completely undoes all of the great work it took to create the plane in the first place. “Retirement into an aerospace class castle should be every jetliner’s constructive fate. They should never be mindlessly scrapped,” he said. “Shredding a beautiful and scintillating jetliner is a tragedy in waste, and a profound failure of human imagination.”
A Plane With An Incredible History
In 1999, Bruce stumbled across the plane that he wanted to use for his project – a retired Boeing 727 passenger plane. What makes this model even more special, and worth every dime of its $100,000 price tag, was the fascinating backstory behind it. In 1975, in the heart of its heyday, the plane actually transported the body of shipping businessman Aristotle Onassis back to Greece. Moreover, his wife, Jackie, who was formerly the wife of John F. Kennedy, was aboard the plane during that flight.
When it comes to building your own home, it’s never going to be cheap. So it should come as no surprise that Bruce had to break the bank in order to use a plane as the basis for his project. However, seeing that it was once worth millions of dollars, $100,000 seemed like a bargain. Nevertheless, Bruce would need to spend more money, most notably, another $120,000 on renovations. In total, Bruce’s spendings came to $220,000, which was pretty cheap in the large scheme of things.
Finding The Right Location
In order to keep the plane steady and in one place, Bruce had it put on large concrete pillars in the woods close to Portland, Oregon. He understood the importance of making sure that the plane-home is in a good location with enough space to get around. Just getting the airliner to his desired location took a lot of time and effort. “You need to transport your airliner to your land,” he said. “That’s the most daunting challenge.”
Comfort Is Key
Money aside, the retired engineer was excited to transform the plane into something he could call home. The word “comfort” seemed to be the name of the game for Bruce. Some of the priorities on his list included having a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and even a laundry room. In the end, he was able to install all of those things, and then some. He also had running water, electricity and a connection to the sewer fitted.
More Than Just A Home
In Bruce’s eyes, the plane is so much more than just a home. On his website, he described the end result as “1,066-square feet of exhilarating aerospace quality living area.” This was definitely apparent in virtually every aspect of his new home. It has all the things he needs to get by, such as a bathroom, a bedroom, a living space and a kitchen. Nevertheless, it still has all the signs that it was once a king of the skies.
If there is one thing Bruce aims to do with his unique project, it is to help pave the way for a longterm change in general human behavior when it comes to where and how they live. He said that he wants to “change humanity’s behavior in this little niche.” Furthermore, he thinks that even the older generation can learn to enjoy themselves in their later years. “I think most people are nerds in their hearts in some measure,” Campbell said. “The point is to have fun.”
Another reason that the plane is the ideal home for Bruce is its protective edge. The main body of the aircraft is strong, sturdy and protects him from even the most extreme weather (including earthquakes), as well as potentially dangerous wildlife. “[The structure is] incredibly strong, durable, and long lived. And [it can] easily withstand any earthquake or storm,” he said in an interview with lifestyle website Atlas Obscura. However, there are so many more perks to living on a plane…
One fantastic perk of living on a plane is that it is so easy to maintain, as far as keeping clean is concerned. “[The] interior is easy to keep immaculately clean because [of its] sealed-pressure canisters,” Bruce said. “So dust and insects can’t intrude from the outside. And [planes are] highly resistant to intruders.” Obviously, it must also be easy to maintain seeing that Bruce lives alone, but this would also be easy for an entire family to keep clean.
The Great Plan
One thing is for sure, Bruce didn’t just guess his way through the build. The retired engineer spent many years of painstaking research before finally conducting a meticulous plan that would see his project through from start to finish. There’s no denying that his many decades of engineering also helped. Upon purchasing the Boeing 727 plane, Bruce concluded that the model was the most exciting thing he could have possibly chosen. According to him, it “seemed to offer the most attractive overall characteristics.”
As excited as he is about his new home, Bruce Campbell is aware that he does live a little differently compared to the average 60 something-year-old retired engineers out there. Plane-home aside, he bathes in a shower that he created; he sleeps on a futon, not a bed; and eats most of his food out of cans and doesn’t use an oven. Also, he has a shoe rack. Not for shoes, but for the numerous slippers that he wears to detract dirt from entering his home.
After living in the plane-home for a few years now, Bruce has a good idea of whether he prefers living in it compared to a more traditional house. His final verdict is a resounding “yes to planes.” Here’s why. “It’s a reasonable-size home for an individual or small family, but not so large that it can’t be transported over public roads,” he said. “Airliners, free of hundreds of passengers and the clutter of their seats, are a sheer thrill to live within.”
Hunting For The Next Boeing
Despite having retired, creating such an impressive home, and being very comfortable, Bruce is far from done. At 67 years old, the man from Oregon is only just beginning and is already planning on his next home. In fact, Bruce spends half of his time in Japan, of all places. This is because he wants to build his next home close to the city of Miyazaki. He confirmed in 2016 that he is actually looking for another retired Boeing – the 747-400 model.
The Real Dream
Make no mistake about it – securing the purchase of Boeing 747-400 will spark big things for Bruce – literally. While his current home is by no means small, the next project will be a lot bigger, as the aforementioned model can carry up to 660 passengers! This means that it carries over three times the amount of people. When it comes to house parties, Bruce could invite all of his Facebook friends, family, and then some!
Searching For The Right Plane
Bruce is pulling out all the stops in order to make his dream home in Japan come true. In 2016, the retired engineer had a piece published in the San Antonio Express-News in order to try and find a Boeing 747-400. “A superbly executed second project which very nearly fully preserves the original aircraft in all its sleek gleaming majesty,” he said. “[It] will attract a great deal of world press interest for a very long time, and thus be of considerable promotional value to a partner airline.”
Large Living Space
For Bruce, it was very easy to detach himself from the fact that it is actually still a plane. With one mental exercise, he was teleported into another world. “Next time you’re in a jetliner, close your eyes for a moment. In your mind, remove all the seats and all the other people,” he said. “Then open your eyes with that vision and consider the expanse of a living room. It’s a good environment. It really is.”
According to Bruce, one of the most exciting things about living on a plane is that the possibilities are endless. “It’s a great toy. Trick doors, trick floors. Hatches here, latches there,” he said. “Cool interior lights. Awesome exterior lights, sleek gleaming appearance, titanium ducts. Star Trek movies in a Star Trek-like setting.” Bruce and the gallery of awesome photos of his plane are living proof that even in the twilight of life, one can still find fun in the most unexpected of places.
Strange Or Normal?
Naturally, many of Bruce’s friends and family, as well as members of the public, have called him out on his abnormal living arrangement. In response to these queries, all he can say is one thing – it suits him, and he has never really questioned it. “I can appreciate that some folks might feel a bit isolated or…that it might simply strike them as an unusual living environment,” he said. “But for me, it has always felt completely natural.”
No matter what happens when it comes to Bruce’s future endeavors, you simply can’t deny how impressive his project is. If he never fully realizes his Japanese dream, he can still look back on the last few years with pride, knowing that he created something truly special – a home. “Jetliners are masterful works of aerospace science,” he said in an interview with Atlas Obscura. “Their superlative engineering grace is unmatched by any other structures people can live within.”
After Bruce joined the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, he was given a fresh perspective on how to utilize his purchased land. Originally interested in building a home out of freight wagons, Campbell was convinced by the non-profit organization to use a retired plane as his base. The AFRA, as it is also known, firmly believes that all retired aircraft should be used or transformed for other purposes. This inspired Bruce to purchase a plane and create a home out of it.
Bruce was quick to express his support for AFRA and knew that this would not only be a great way to create a home, but also an efficient way. He was fully aware of the benefits that a plane’s infrastructure could bring. He wrote about it on his website. “Retired airliners are profoundly well designed,” he said. “[They] can last for centuries (with effective corrosion control), are extremely fire resistant, and provide superior security. They’re among the finest structures mankind has ever built.”
Bruce & The Plane Are A Team
The way that Bruce looks at it, his relationship with the plane is of a collaborative nature. While he gave the plane a second chance at life, the plane has acted as a form of shelter for the retired engineer. It is a beautiful give-and-take that both the man and the plane have benefited from. “These great ships deserve two vital lives rather than just one – their first service life returned to center stage in my life, ensuring my survival,” he wrote.
One thing is for sure, Bruce has virtually unlimited potential from a social point of view. With a lot of the seats on the plane still intact and the large interior space in general, Bruce is able to hold hundreds of people in his plane. If he really wanted, he could schedule tours of his plane home and even have parties for his friends and family. However, in reality, Bruce uses the large vessel as a living space, just for him.
Japanese At Heart
Bruce might hail from America, but his heart seems to be in Japan these days. It seems like his long-running project sent him on a journey searching for the answer of what it means to have a home. “I retain numerous trusted and deeply rewarding friendships and affections in Oregon and America generally,” he wrote. “But the bulk of my heart now belongs to Miyazaki, where I feel a greater sense of belonging, personal joy, and hope for the future.”
You Can Make One Too!
Bruce might be smarter than the average person, but he is convinced that anyone can turn a plane into a home if they put their minds to it. “I’m not an extraterrestrial nor android – I’m just an ordinary mortal human being with a full array of ordinary human frailties,” he wrote. “If I can do this you can probably do it too. However, as with all human endeavors success depends upon your will, knowledge, experience, and a host of other factors.”
Acquire An Airliner
He may have only bought one plane in his life so far. Make no mistake about it though; Bruce has bought more planes than most. He wrote a couple of valuable tips on his website for people who are also interested in purchasing a jet for a home. “Contact several airlines and boneyards and simply explain what model of fully intact airliner you want,” he writes. “Almost anyone can purchase a retired or retiring airliner.”
Choose A Location
According to Bruce, the most daunting part of the entire process isn’t even the financial side of it. It is how and where you decide to place your new home. “You’ll have to transport your airliner to your land,” he wrote. “If you don’t already own the intended land consider options which offer substantial aircraft transport logistics advantages. Wide body aircraft can’t be transported on roads – they’re simply too large. No helicopter can lift even a narrow body aircraft – they’re simply too massive.”
Money Is Power
Of course, if you want to transform a plane into a home, you need to make sure that every dime counts. “In general you’ll have to finance your project yourself,” Bruce writes. “However, it might be possible to partner with some firms or organizations which could leverage promotional value from your project. If you can compose inspired pitches and you’re a deft negotiator you might be able to engage multiple constructive partners to minimize your out of pocket expenses.”
Transforming A Jet Into A Home
Domestic conversion is the name of the game, as far as Bruce is concerned. There are some subtle, but important things to do in order to appropriately turn your acquired plane into an actual home. “Connect it to domestic water, sewer, and electrical power using the usual robust 1/4 turn or push and latch airport ramp connectors,” he said. “You’ll also need to perform some rather minor modifications to your aircraft, all of which are relatively simple and easy.”
With these four steps, you will have your own plane home in no time. Sure, there are a lot of other important details that fill in the gaps, but this is the main outline of how to transform your plane into a home. “Then you can zestfully enjoy your life in your absolutely scintillating, extremely long-lived and almost maintenance free aerospace quality home at a very high level of dignity, strength, safety, security, beauty, and pure exhilarating fun,” Bruce said.
He’s Not The First…
Amazingly, Bruce is not the first person to take a piece of aircraft and convert into his own living space. In fact, a celebrity actually did the same thing. The late singer Red Lane took a 1958 DC-8 Jet, took out its 177 seats and made it into his home. Not only was it safe to live in, but it also had a bar and the cockpit was converted into a music room! Maybe it was Red Lane who Bruce took inspiration from.
Believe it or not, but this is one of the first photos taken of Bruce’s plane way back in 2002. On his website, Bruce has thoroughly documented his work and there are numerous accounts, meticulously detailing each crucial step of the creation of his home. And to think that it all started with this. In all honesty, on face value, the exterior of the plane hasn’t changed so much. But there is so much more than what meets the eye.
Bruce Campbell’s work goes back a long way. So much so that it has taken the retired engineer over two decades to complete his project. It’s hard to fathom how much time the man has spent building, planning and even thinking about that plane. Think about it, a human being can be born, learn to walk, go to school, learn to drive, start a career, get married and have their own kids in the same amount of time.
Sharing His Story
Like any good engineer/designer, Bruce has made sure to document his progress, creating a website that practically shows every step of the plane’s transformation. His website, airplanehome.com, has many photos of the plane at various stages of the build, as well as detailed accounts of the project’s various stages. Campbell shared his project with the world in an effort to promote self-sufficient home building from the most unlikely of sources. He hopes that others will seek to emulate his achievement.