Oregon Man Renovates a Retired 727 Plane and Turns It Into a Home
| LAST UPDATE 07/18/2021
An old saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." An Oregon resident decided to take this phrase literally, and the outcome is miles-high from what anyone could have expected. See how he transformed a plane into his home.
Meet Bruce Campbell
Buying an old airplane and turning it into a home may not be the first thing someone thinks about if they were to have $100,000 laying around. Bruce Campbell, however, had a slightly different outlook.
Living in Oregon for most of his life, Campbell wanted to own a house without the need for a downpayment. Renting was not an option, as he was sick of living in homes that he couldn't call his own. So, Bruce decided to brainstorm. Little did he know that he would make such an incredible story to tell the grandkids!
A Tech-Savvy Kind of Guy
Bruce says that he's more of an "old nerd" than anything else, loving the world of learning, creating, building, and, well, making things work. He actually has an Electric Engineering degree and has pretty much involved himself with technology all his life.
This clever man has never been married, but he seems to be upholding it pretty well. He has a little biography on his website that he uses to blog and to keep up to date with his technological projects. “Socially inept” is one of the terms he humorously uses to describe himself.
Engineers Love Adventures
Being a self-proclaimed nerd doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have fun. At least, that is what Bruce showed us. The talented engineer has had quite a wholesome life, going on treks in Oregon's forests and seeing the beauty of nature, which he simply can't get enough of.
His love for nature may explain why he ultimately purchased a ten-acre slice of woodland when he was just 20-years-old. The significant plot of land is situated right outside of Hillsboro township, which borders Portland, the largest city in the state of Oregon.
Is a Conventional Lifestyle a Good One?
Being a calculated man, Campbell had always thought about where he might live when he was older. That being said, the biggest problem he could think of was the possibility of being tied up to a mortgage for many years, which is something he preferred to avoid.
In 2017, this ambitious man was interviewed for FLORB's YouTube series; Alternative Living Spaces. When asked about why he wanted to reside in an alternative living space, he quickly responded with his dismay for mortgages. "When I was young, I didn't want a mortgage," he said
His Alternative Way of Thinking
Campbell gave off the impression that he has always been the type of man to think outside the box. Ever since he purchased his plot of land in the woods, he thought about the possibilities that would lie in the future. He never would've guessed where he would end up after almost 50 years!
"I could have purchased a home and shouldered a mortgage like most people do," Campbell said in the interview. "But I was happy enough living in a very humble and very inexpensive mobile home." And with his ambitious nature, that is what he chose to do.
He Wanted To Wait for an Opportunity
The clever engineer's humble way of living had some very nice benefits too. Throughout his years living in a mobile home, Campbell had managed to save a bulk of his money, probably because he didn't have to pay rent or bills. He even started to invest little sums.
"My intention was to wait until I could buy a home with cash," he went on to say in the Alternative Living Spaces interview. "Then I would never be tied down to the shackles of debt." Campbell expressed his worry about finding a house with a mortgage. But what alternatives could there be?
The Time Has Come To Decide
A long, strenuous period of saving up money and investing to make enough of a fortune to buy a house came to an end. After all these years of suppressing his lust for finding a home, Campbell found himself with a big deposit in his bank. His choice, though, was pretty outstanding.
"By that time, I had stopped thinking in provincial terms," Bruce said when asked about the moment he realized he had enough money in the bank. "Aerospace technology seemed like a wonderful option," he explained with a smirk on his face, looking at the heavens above for inspiration.
The Decision Became Easier
Campbell opened up in the interview, as he told the producers of the YouTube channel that his original decision was to build a complex out of freight tanks. His ambitious plan was about to become more accessible when he came across the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association.
His technological mind was curious to understand what the recycled aircraft association had to offer. After contacting them and learning about their mission, Campbell concluded that he knew exactly what he wanted his new home to look like. But would it be possible?
A Recycled Airplane
The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association is an organization that believes in the human feat of building an aircraft. They see each plane made as a world of its own, one that must be preserved. The group is very open-minded when it comes to creative ways to keep aircrafts "alive."
This is where Bruce's sophisticated mind of engineering comes into play. The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association happily gives recycled planes to people who show a creative approach to preserving the metallic birds. Campbell had precisely that; He wanted to convert a plane into a house.
What Do People Think of It?
Campbell found a new sense of motivation to create a home from an aircraft. He had to get other opinions on it, though, to see whether he was making a mistake or not. Was it really possible? How could an airliner be converted into a house? Would someone be able to help him gather his ideas?
"Retired airliners are profoundly well designed," Bruce posted on his site. "They can last for centuries (with effective corrosion control), are extremely fire resistant, and provide superior security," he added. "They're among the finest structures mankind has ever built," he continued, eagerly hoping for reactions.
A Sad Reality for Planes
Digging deeper into the world of aviation, Campbell researched and found a new profound love; His engineering mind lit up. Many people commented on his post that they support him, likely because planes face quite a grim reality once they're retired. They essentially become trash.
Every day, dozens upon dozens of airplanes wind up in landfills, he found out. Campbell expressed his worry that these "feats of engineering" are left to "rot," and he didn't like that. The only valuable thing retired planes have are their engines that may have recyclable components. The rest, however, is just thrown away.
He Wanted To Change That
Campbell told the interviewers in the YouTube video that he believes it's horrible how nearly all retired aircrafts end up in the landfill. He talked about how planes are beautiful and should be appreciated more, plus, scrapping them creates additional environmental waste.
The Oregon resident ultimately committed to what he believed was right. He thought that there couldn't be a better way to do so than to put money where his mouth is. So, Bruce decided to propose his idea to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association. What plane could this ambitious man end up with?
Isn't She a Beauty!
Campbell received an offering for a retired airplane almost moments after he sent his request. The aircraft was an elegant Boeing 727-200, a tri-engine plane that was once used for transatlantic journeys connecting Europe and the Americas. It was one of the most advanced pieces of technology to roll out in its time.
Bruce was surprised to discover that this particular plane had a vibrant history. The metal bird carried the Greek shipping magnate's body, Aristotle Onassis, back to his home country in 1975. And his wife, Jackie Onassis, was in the cockpit during the entire journey back.
The Project Kicks Off
As Campbell read through the offer, he couldn't contain his excitement. The plane seemed like everything he'd ever wanted. The price? $100,000. As if it was by pure coincidence or fate, it was just the right amount of money. That sum was precisely what he was willing to dish out in the first place.
Campbell scored the bargain of a lifetime, having bought the 727 at such a remarkable discount. The plane was initially priced north of $200 million, to put things into perspective. With all the fun surrounding his newly found deal, he came to a realization: What on earth was he going to do now?
Getting the Plane To His Plot
As soon as he closed the deal, Campbell went over to Hillsboro airport to face his first challenge of many challenges. He needed to figure out how to get the plane from the airport to his plot of land. Understandably, at first, he was wary and didn't know how to solve this problem.
But the Oregon man found some help along the way. "Wayne Grippin house movers and Swanson Trucking managed to move the aircraft from the staging site," he explained. "Through this path, which you can see was cut in my forest up to the site," he added, pointing out the cut woodland.
Was the Hard Part Behind Him?
One needs to consider many different factors when transporting a metal framework on wheels, including the specific dropoff area. Bruce's plot of land sits on the Cascadia subduction zone, which is prone to earthquakes. So, he needed to find a way to secure the plane.
Campbell put his engineering cap on (figuratively) and used the aircraft itself for stability in the event of an earthquake. He blocked the wheels in specific ways to ensure that the plane couldn't move if the ground were to rattle. It seems to have worked so far!
A Smart Move Indeed
"After an earthquake, newscasters never say, 'Oh gosh, it's such a shame – all the aircraft at the airport were badly damaged,'" Bruce explained. He made it clear that he took proper precautions, as earthquakes can significantly affect that particular region of the Cascade mountains.
"These are independent vessels," he explained of the aircraft. "They're on their own suspension system. They ride it out, [and] it's no big deal." After Bruce reassured the safety of the 727 on his land, the stage was set to begin the real fun: Transforming the aircraft into a home!
Buying the Plane Wasn't Enough
As the interviewers stepped into the jet, Bruce told them about how the real strenuous work was ahead of him at that time. Starting the massive renovation campaign for the plane would not be a walk in the park. Plus, it came with all sorts of surprises. And some of them weren't so pleasant.
Bruce realized that the cost of building the plane from the inside would be more than buying the actual aircraft. He was slapped with a hefty sum of $120,000, making the Oregon man really reach down to the depths of his pocket to pay for it. Would the final result be worth the steep cost?
Time To Get His Hands Dirty
A typical home includes many features that might be a little tricky to install into a remote plane. For one, water and sewage must have a direct inlet/outlet, which can be tough to install. Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is electricity, let alone air conditioning.
When the plane had been operational, there was a service door with a pump to fill the aircraft with water. So, Campbell decided to use this tool to his advantage. He then connected both an electricity supply and a telephone line to his new home. Things were starting to shape up!
Now It Was Time for the Toilets
Here is something to add to the list of bonuses that renovating an aircraft into a home has: toilets. Every airplane has a lavatory built in either at the back or at the front of the plane. Fortunately for Bruce, the Boeing 727 had two restrooms at the backend of the aircraft.
The bonus got better: the two lavatories shared one sewage connection that transports waste out of the aircraft via another service door that was operational back when the plane flew. This was good news because the sewage could be quickly taken away from one convenient spot.
The team invited to Campbell's home entered the aircraft through "air stairs" at the back of the plane. They retract and extend, and as they climbed up to the rear of the retired jet, they found a makeshift tube. That happened to be the shower that Bruce had built.
Campbell described the invention as a "very crude, primitive shower." and later on commented that it's basically a hose inside of a plastic tub. He connected the "showerhead" to his main waterpipe by creating an extension pipe that ran down the cabin and into the water service door.
Making Use of His Space
Going on with his tour of the aircraft, he showed the Alternative Living Spaces team what he called the "aft gallery." The terminology he used is actually how flight attendants and pilots refer to this area of the plane. It's the place where stewards and stewardesses stay during the flight.
"My aft galley is filled with all kinds of industrial or construction-related material at the moment," Bruce explained. He continued with the grand tour, and he certainly didn't hold back. But there was something that surprised Bruce's guests about the particular storage space.
Too Much Room
While the aft galley might be his storage room, for now, Campbell has taken himself to the drawing board to find alternative solutions. He wants to free up space from the whole cabin to make hosting a bit more comfortable. He said that he might consider making the cockpit a storage room.
Regarding the aircraft's unique aft galley, Campbell told the YouTube channel that "at some point or other, it will evolve into either a laundry room or for some other purpose, or maybe a kitchen," Bruce concluded. "I'll let evolution take its course."
But There's More To It
Continuing the showcase of the interior of his plane "pad," Campbell showed the Alternative Living Spaces team how the space could be used as a small office. He pointed out his workbench, as the team started to ask questions on how he manages to keep his desk tidy.
"This my workbench, which is terribly cluttered right now – leaving me almost no actual work area," he joked. "But I still get the job done," he continued on to say, reassuring viewers that he can deal with the mess of renovating a plane from scratch.
A Tour of the Kitchen
But don't fret, Campbell has managed to single-handedly convert the plane into a liveable home. He also incorporated what he calls a "makeshift kitchen," which includes a "five-decade-old refrigerator" and a serving cart. This was initially used by the flight attendants back when the plane was functional.
Bruce also showed the team the amount of food he kept, saying at the time that he had enough to last him four months. While he did have a working, albeit antique, fridge, he packed his kitchen with all sorts of canned foods, in case something were to happen to the electricity.
And Now, the Living Room
But Campbell's house doesn't end there. He continued walking down the isles with the YouTube team until they ended up in the "makeshift" living room. Situated above the central landing gear bay, the living room doubled as a bedroom. There, Bruce had a sofa that he slept on.
"It folds flat if I ever need space for two, which occurs from time to time," the humble guy commented on his sofa. He then continued his tour, proceeding to show the Alternative Living Spaces where he hangs his laundry, which was on a rail that dangled above the living room.
Some Unexpected Features, Too
There's far more than just the basic amenities and systems inside Campbell’s unique home. Considering it's a plane in the middle of the forest, Bruce installed a climate control system. He also put in radios and other equipment to help him get by, but that's not all.
"The right wing is a frequent worksite and recreational site for me," Campbell told the YouTube channel. On top of that, he told the team that he also hosts concerts on occasion. He said that there is a surprising demand for it. Who wouldn't want to party on a plane in the middle of a forest?
All Thanks To One Man's Passion
To end his tour, this intelligent engineer showed the YouTube crew his favorite part of the aircraft: the cockpit. "The flight deck was fully skeletonized by the salvage company, but I've managed to restore some things," Bruce said as he showed them the room, with a clear spark in his eyes.
Bruce documented this remarkable journey on his website, AirplaneHome.com. And by the looks of it, other people have been inspired to do the same. Seeing a person so passionate about what he does and his love for planes could probably move the strongest of hearts, and we had a pleasure seeing the incredible transformation!