The Liberty GazetteSeptember 22, 2020
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: May I say, “Due to Covid19” we’re going to explore repurposing? Seems like the perfect time—nowhere to go, so we need things to do from home to keep us busy and productive. Expanding on the theme of a couple weeks ago, let’s take a look at some of the ways airplanes get repurposed. This just may give you an idea that will keep you occupied till the virus is gone.
We might as well start locally, too. Dr. Cody Abshier’s Twin Beech (with a colorful past), is being repurposed for “Tool School,” which is starting up soon. When he isn’t taking it for a spin around the block, it’s been tucked away, awaiting curious kids’ hands and minds to make it into something fun, like a fort.
Maybe when one of those kids grows up, he or she will take what they learned in Tool School and snag a great deal on a retired airliner and turn it into a house. Or a hotel. Or a restaurant. Or a car. Or a camper. Or a boat. Or maybe an artist will get ahold of a sadly grounded plane and let it find new wings as a sculpture. All these things are possible.
The Vickers VC-10 was the last of the British-built jets. A Brit named Steve Jones, whose friends own a scrapyard, bought just one engine nacelle (that round, bullet-looking piece that hangs off the wing, or elsewhere on the plane and houses an engine) and converted it into a camper.
In Suwon, South Korea, the second Boeing 747 ever made, but the first to be flown commercially, was converted to a restaurant. Unfortunately, the business didn’t survive long, but the same idea has worked out great in Taupo, New Zealand.
A McDonald's restaurant there started out life as a fully functional C-47 (the military version of the Douglas DC-3, my favorite airplane). It was born in January 1943 and saw action in the Pacific theater during WWII. Life after the war brought it to Australia, where it hauled passengers for an airline for several years, then went to work for the Post Office. Coming out of a 24-year retirement in 2014, it can now fit up to 20 diners at 10 tables in the modified fuselage.
Probably one of the most famous aircraft morphological occurrences was a yacht, the conversion completed circa 1974. The 1939 Boeing 307 Stratoliner, one of only ten built, was first owned by Howard Hughes (who may or may not be buried in Houston) for his airline, TWA. The airplane changed hands a few times and was abandoned and sold at auction in 1969. Ken London’s winning bid of $62 left him enough change to chop off the wings and turn it into the luxurious floating “Cosmic Muffin.”
There are many more examples of creative thinking—and doing—which have given old airplane carcasses new life. So if you’re looking for a unique project, look no farther than your nearest aircraft boneyard.