A British entrepreneur has spent 15,000 pounds (approx. US$18,700) flipping an old Boeing 737 aircraft into an offbeat vacation rental with a built-in cockpit flight simulator. The quirky home already has a long waiting list of potential guests.
Steven Northam, 39, describes himself as a "serial entrepreneur" and part-time university professor, teaching business. He lives in Winchester, England, with his wife and two daughters.
Mr. Northam's interest in the aircraft was piqued when he saw the front section of a 56-year-old Boeing 737 for sale on eBay in 2021.
"I thought, 'That's really different, quirky, unique; I can turn that into something quite interesting,'" he told The Epoch Times. "I found a registration stamped on the plane, did a bit of Googling, and found out where it's been. ... I've got videos of it flying, taking off, all sorts."
The Boeing was built in 1968 and was originally operated by United Airlines then came to Europe and spent most of its life flying short trips between France and Spain.
After being decommissioned, it was adopted by Chichester College to be used for training and was eventually listed on eBay for sale after it went unused for 10 years.
"It was pretty much as if it had just come out the sky. ... Original fittings, the works," said Mr. Northam, who bought the plane for 5,000 pounds (approx. US$6,200). "It's cool to sit there and go, 'That was a plane flying in the sky, ferrying passengers around for many years, and now it's parked in the garden!'"
It took Mr. Northam three months of planning and 3,000 pounds (approx. US$3,740) to move the plane from its location which was an hour away from his home, onto his acre of spare land. He even had to notify road police in case the move caused traffic delays.
Originally buying the aircraft to entertain his daughters who are aged 4 and 6, Mr. Northam later harbored ambitions to turn it into something that could make money. The Boeing sat on his land for around six months before he was approached by a British Channel 4 show, "George Clarke's Amazing Spaces," proposing he turn the aircraft into a "quirky space."
Mr. Northam worked every day for three months over the summer of 2022, spending 15,000 pounds (approx. US$18,700) on the renovation, as TV crews filmed his progress.
The exterior of the plane was "very dirty" and needed a jet wash, but the inside was "not too bad," barring a few leaks and patches of moss. The entrepreneur ripped out most of the old seats, but kept the overhead lockers and all original features in place, claiming that ninety-eight percent of the original plane remains.
Explaining the specifics of his project, Mr. Northam said, the space fits four people and has got two single beds in the main cabin area.
"I cut a hole in the floor down into the baggage hold, and there's a double bed ... a little kitchenette, sink, microwave, and a fridge underneath," he said.
To make the space home-friendly, Mr. Northam has also fitted a shower.
"The toilet is still in there, so I refitted that, plumbed it back in," he said.
Mr. Northam has also cut out a glass floor, so you can see down into the cargo-hold area, which has a double bed, bean bags, and a media system.
"In the original cockpit, I've put a massive curved screen and a flight simulator," he said. "You can sit in the cockpit and pretend to fly the plane."
Finding two engine cowlings for sale from the front of a bigger jet engine, Mr. Northam turned them into a hot tub and placed the tub next to his Boeing for an added quirky feature.
Apart from adding all the above cool features to the aircraft, Mr. Northam revealed that while doing the renovation he found really interesting stuff such as ticket stubs from 20 years ago and all sorts of bits and pieces on the floor.
"That was quite good fun. It's just interesting, from my point of view, to see how a plane functions ... most people haven't taken apart a Boeing 747," he said.
Mr. Northam's biggest challenges involved adjusting all the furniture and fittings to the plane's circular interior and securing planning permission for the renovation. "It took about three months [and] about 10,000 pounds [approx. US$ 12,500] in costs to get this permission granted, but it was granted, and the local council who control it loved the idea," he said.
As for how his family has reacted to this project, he said he has "tried to explain" to his daughters that most people don't have half a plane in the garden. However, the girls, "think it's brilliant, they invite their friends round."
Since the TV show and corresponding press, Mr. Northam's Boeing has a new role: a quirky vacation home that he estimates will fetch 250 pounds (approx. US $310) per night. He hopes to launch the Boeing's Airbnb listing this month. Around 400 people have already joined the waiting list, and a couple, both of whom work in the airline industry, have asked to get married on the plane.
As for the future, Mr. Northam said: "I'm building a house, currently. I've fairly recently sold lots of the companies I own, and I've kind of stepped back from the business ... The plan is to have lots of different Airbnbs: converted trains, planes, the works.
"I'm already on the lookout," he said. "I'll keep an eye on eBay for more weird objects which might pop up!"