I had never thought about an airplane being converted into a home.
Bruce Campbell, an interesting man, lives in a retired Boeing 727 in the woods in Hillsboro, Oregon, a 40-minute drive from Portland. I randomly watched his story on YouTube one night in November. I immediately contacted him and expressed my interest in listening to his cool airplane adventure. The surprise thing was that he could meet with me during my upcoming PNW (Pacific Northwest) trip in early December. He seemed a funny and interesting guy, this was my impression of him through his words and style during our email communications.
Before I met him in person, a lot of questions floated in my mind, especially why, when restoring the airplane, he did not customize his airplane at all, instead keeping it as close to the original as possible? If I converted an airplane into my home, I would customize it to my liking. But at the same time, I thought he had his reasons. I knew meeting him would be a great opportunity to learn and understand someone else’s adventure, with respect and without judgment.
It was the afternoon of December 2, my second day of my PNW trip, in Portland, Oregon. I brought a strawberry cake, along with my curiosity and respect, to meet Bruce in person. His airplane home is easy to reach via Google maps, but I felt uncomfortable to drive on his private road in wet conditions. I parked the car adjacent to Holly Hill Road (in fact, it is not allowed), and I walked to the woods instead.
Wow! A real huge airplane appeared in front of me.
I took off my shoes to walk up the stairs and knock on the aft doors loudly, a man with a nice and big smile opened the door and welcomed me with hospitality. We introduced each other.
He was going to help me to drive the car up to his area. We walked down to the main road together and started first with simple conversation. I said: “Bruce, I watched your video online, your airplane home is cool, but I think the coolest thing is you. This is why I came here.” He smiled and appreciated my compliment and shared his journey: He was an electrical engineer and pilot, now he does not fly due to his age. He has lived in this airplane as his home in Oregon for more than 20 years. He has traveled to many different countries, but Japanese culture makes him the most comfortable. He felt respected and friendly from the Japanese, and he spends half of each year in Japan. I started to understand why he picked Japan as his second home.
I shared my background: I came from Guangzhou, China, and Jacksonville, Florida is my second home. I met a lot nice and amazing people there, so I visit Jacksonville to see them regularly. We seemed to find a connection: People are an important element of the definition of home.
Only Home Rule for visitors
The visitors must leave their shoes at the entrance and wear Japanese-inspired slippers before walking through the plane, and the acrylic floor is protected from scuff marks. I saw he made a great effort to keep his airplane very clean and neat, even though he did not customized his jetliner home.
Most of the interior of aircraft remains intact, but he’s made it a very simple and neat home setting, though it is a little dark. I can see old style computers, components, a simple fold-away futon, a small kitchen with microwave and refrigerator. Ha ha! I actually witnessed a simple makeshift shower that was created from a plastic tray and a wrapped sheet that formed a screened tub.
He instructed me to use an old wire to touch the custom-contoured titanium air ducts, and suddenly lights appeared in the airplane. Wow, that experience was so interesting!
I typed on his three “Macintosh” computers, which were a little slow. I was like a kid, full of curiosity, played and learn with this new toy “Macintosh”. I was very excited and told him that he transformed and recreated these retired things, this home is your playground! He nodded and answered: “Yes! My playground”! We found a connection again, simple and real.
On the flight deck, I wore the pilot cap Bruce gave me, and I sat in the pilot seat. I controlled overhead displays, used pedals to navigate and kept the plane in the upright position. I looked like a pilot flying to a destination.
I saw and admired his efforts of making this home full of interesting and impressive features: he has managed to source and replace many of the desks’ missing elements, recreating the original setup as closely as he could. I imagine that he could “fly” everywhere in this cool flight desk, every day.
His airplane journey
I got closer to his world via his style and his soft voice and funny character: he got used to living in a simple and humble mobile tiny house, saving money to afford to purchase a property and the airplane.
When he was 50 years old, he discovered and followed his “engineer” vision: Every retired airplane should be repurposed into a home. We can reuse and recreate those practical components in life, instead of destroying them, even after they have retired from flying. He saw the opportunity for a Boeing 727 that he could afford, and moved it from Greece to Oregon, paying $100,000 (plus an additional $100,000 to drag it into the woods and another $15,000 to refurbish it).
Due to the incredible strength and durability of an airplane, he believes an airplane is the best shelter for people to protect them from and earthquake or serious wind storms. He shared that typically about three jetliners retire from active service every day. We could transfer the purpose of these retired airplanes. You have one, your child has one and your grandchild has one.
“If I have an airplane, where you would suggest me to settle? “ I asked. He replied, “New Zealand. That country and government is open, friendly and welcoming to people to add additional homes and live in their country. Some areas in New Zealand have suffered earthquakes, and an airplane can benefit from it.” I smiled with a naïve face, “An airplane is so huge, I need to find the right spot as home base for it!” He replied, “A ranch or farm is ideal as your home site, talk with local construction people and your potential neighborhood before you settle.” His dream home is Japan and New Zealand. He is working his second humble project in Japan now. (http://airplanehomev2.com).
The mistakes of transporting airplane to home
I keep asking him, “the airplane is so huge, if we need to land it at its new home, how we can transport it there? Do we need to remove some part of the plane first? “. He answered, the best way is to fly the airplane to the home directly, do not destroy any part. He made a mistake himself when transporting his airplane to its final home: he hired a local contractor to tow the plane down the road to its current woodland setting, requiring the removal of the wings and tail prior to moving. A dismantling company might salvage your aircraft rapidly as they pillage for anything of value, leaving a grotesque broken hulk behind, so you want it to remain fully intact, functional. It is a conflict with your vision to dismantle it. So, flying the aircraft to the final home directly can avoid repeating his mistake.
I finally ask this question, “Why you did not customize your airplane at all”? He described the Boeing’s design and fabrication, explaining how every component in the airplane is worthy of respect, and can be repurposed and reused, the best way is to keep it original and simple, only need to remove the chairs to maximum that space, with all else in the airplane should be retained as much as possible. Customizing the airplane is not the right vision for him. He continued, “I just made an “engineering” decision.” At that moment, my heart and eyes were full of admiration for this guy in front of me. I understood and respected the airplane as he showed it to me is the best for him.
“Now you can live in first class forever! Ha,” I joked. But he replied, no, the design of this jetliner does not have first or business classes, only tourist class. That made this airplane special.
It is a challenge to devise efficient methods to economically relocate and repurpose essentially complete retired jetliners as homes, and an efficient model project illustrates the intrinsic appeal provided by a home rendered from a fully intact and functional modern jetliner. He hopes to use his dream airplane Boeing 747-400 to accomplish this illustration. Wow. I realized that his vision involves a great many elements and details, including physically, socially and mentally.
Two different worlds connected
Bruce saw my passion of taking adventures and found a connection with my world, too. I told him, taking adventures is my way to discover myself and the world. I love adventures, and I always follow my heart to achieve the things that I want. He smiled and understood.
We walked slowly on a wing that was covered by the fall leaves. Even though it was extremely slippery with chilly weather outside, his funny, big kid personality made me happy during those few hours there.
I asked, now that you live in your airplane, achieved your dream, you should be happy. He gave this answer to me: partly happy. But I did not ask his reason, seems I knew it already with respect.
Before we said goodbye to each other, he gave me two big hugs and said, Stephy, you are so sweet, bringing the cake to see me. I am glad that you understand life is only once, you should pursue the things you love and be passionate, enjoy your adventurous journey! He stood there to say goodbye till my car disappeared from the woods. It touched my heart deeply, a big compliment and encouragement for me.
I bring his encouragement and wish to continue my adventures, his image and journey always in my mind. Bruce Campbell, another amazing and impressive guy I met in 2022, he is using his experiences to deliver his vision and bring the re-use concept of the retired airplane, taking residential architecture to a new perspective.
If you are interested in learning his journey, please visit his website: https://www.airplanehome.com. He welcomes guests from all around the world to visit his cool home.
Meeting and speaking with Bruce is one highlight of my PNW trip. We saw passion, enthusiasm, courage, decision and action from each other. We live life on our own terms: an avid engineer and an avid adventurer.
Best wish for you, Dear Bruce!