From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


“The guy that owns it is a retired airline pilot. He bought that plane
used, put it in that forested area and it’s his house. He lives
somewhere in Oregon.”

A Boeing 727-200 Home Project
An option to a new $200K stick home: A used multimillion dollar aerospace quality home.



“* Why not just live in a stick house like everyone else?: The
practical reasons: I don’t mean to offend, but wood is in my view a
terrible building material. It biodegrades – it’s termite chow. And
microbe (rot) chow. Or it’s firewood. It just depends upon which
happens first. It’s a relatively weak material, and it’s secured with
low tech fasteners using low tech techniques. And traditional
rectangular designs are inferior structurally – they unreasonably
sacrifice strength for boxy ergonomics (geodesic structures solve this
problem at least). Rectangular stick homes can’t withstand sever winds
or severe earthquakes, they frequently kill people when they explode
into flames, they’re easily broken into by burglars, they’re leaky,
and they degrade quickly. On the positive side, they are relatively
economical to build (although geodesic homes are too).

But retired airliners are profoundly well designed, high tech,
aerospace quality sealed pressure canisters that can withstand 575 mph
winds and seven G acceleration forces with ease, could last for
centuries (with effective corrosion control), are highly fire
resistant, and provide superior security. They’re among the finest
structures that mankind has ever built.”

Tours and visits: The aircraft is in its final position, but the
landing gear are resting on temporary platforms. Be careful around the
left main gear platform, which is the least stable. The wings,
although not yet welded, are securely attached to the fuselage and are
reasonably safe. For the time being, there are railroad tie towers
below (but not touching) the left wing, and they should be avoided or
negotiated with caution. The interior is a bit hazardous in some areas
due to a few missing floor panels, so watch your step at all times.
You’re welcome to stop by for a tour so long as you read, understand
and agree to the safety information and disclaimer as follows. Unless
we’re already well acquainted, be sure to contact me to arrange a time
before paying a visit. Bring a pair of scrupulously clean slippers, or
be prepared to walk in your socks – the aircraft is clean inside, and
must be kept that way. Otherwise casual or destitute rural class
clothing is best. Directions to my home are provided here.

Bruce Campbell
15270 SW Holly Hill Road
Hillsboro, OR 97123-9074

Voice: 503-628-2936 (Pacific)
Cell: 503-957-0727. (Critical requirements only, costs $1 per minute)

Finding it:

Precise GPS location (courtesy Carl Van Wormer, then adjusted slightly
by reference to a USGS map):

45° 24′ 29″ North
-123° 00′ 29″ West
~539 Feet elevation

From the UBG VOR, approximately: 315° radial, 3.4 miles. A pilot
suggests flying the 317° radial and view left.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: 15 February 2002

* What does it cost?: I paid $100K for the aircraft. But I think
retired 727-200’s are significantly lees expensive now. The costs of
staging site rent, wing and tail removal, moving, and other logistics
will total slightly over another $100K. So the project total will be a
bit over $200K.

A project like this doesn’t need to be that expensive. I wanted
the landing gear, all the passenger and emergency exit doors, all the
flight control surfaces, and all the interior and exterior lights, so
that I could rebuild the aircraft such that it will look fully
operational from the outside when the project is complete, except that
if one orients herself for a view through the center of the engine
cowlings it’ll be apparent that the engines are missing. The landing
gear are expensive and aren’t necessarily required, although they are
wonderful as earthquake damage prevention elements. (Click here to see
why this is a critical concern where I live.) The doors and emergency
exits could be reproduced well and cheaply with fiberglass – a hot tub
fabricator with slow sales could do this (perhaps my doors and exits
could be used as the originals to make the molds). Or you could use
polycarbonate (plexiglass) panels to turn these openings into very
nice windows. (On the Boeing 727, you’d still have the built in rear
airstairs for access.) You can also eliminate the wings and thus the
flight control surfaces. A basic fuselage could be acquired for very
roughly $15K or $20K, or quite possibly much less, since scrap metal
prices are currently quite low. And the basic fuselage still provides
the fundamental attributes needed to make an aerospace quality home,
assuming that you can provide door and emergency exit fills. But you
may not need to settle for just the basic fuselage even if you are on
a tight budget. 727-200 Airliners are being retired at such a pace
that the value of their parts is dropping substantially. My timing
wasn’t great – but yours could be.

The logistics need not be so expensive either. Mine break down
very roughly as follows: Roughly $17K to move it from the airport
across a road to the staging site next door, $20K for staging site
rent (about 4 months), $21.6K to remove the wings and tail, $25K to
move it to my home site, and $20K in ancillary and miscellaneous
costs. But very roughly 30% of those costs were mud and weather delay
costs – the price of executing the project in Oregon during a La Nina
winter. And another very roughly 20% were learning curve costs – the
price of choosing inappropriate vendors and inefficient methods. One
of the few logistics costs that was well handled was the move from the
staging site to my property – I found a wonderful pair of vendors and
they executed the move very well and with very good cost control. If
you tackle your project during the summer, or in a dry climate, and
are careful with vendor selections, and get good advice from those of
us who have been down this road, and can find an inexpensive staging
site for wing and tail removal, and arrange for the salvage company to
remove their items on your site, you could keep the logistics costs
pretty low.

The bottom line: You might be able to create a Boeing 727-200
home for less than $100K – if everything is very well handled. Maybe
even less than $50K, if everything is exceptionally well handled. (But
have cash reserves – you dare not cut it too close and get caught in a
financial bind that necessitates abandonment.)

* How much room does it provide?: The cabin and cockpit
combination provide 1,066 square feet of exhilarating aerospace
quality. This figure was generated from precision CAD drawings. In
addition, there are two large cargo holds and some equipment bays
below the cabin deck. But I don’t know what the floor space of those
areas is. Their ceiling is low – you can’t stand up in them (but
children up to roughly age seven can). The cargo holds, electronics
bay, and water tank & climate control duct bay are part of the
pressure canister – they share the same airspace and thus stay clean,
warm, and insect and rodent free. The cargo holds are accessible from
the interior via hatches, and the other bays can be easily accessed
from the forward cargo bay by removing service panels. They’re
wonderful for kids rooms, infrastructure such as a water heater and
water pressure tanks (well infrastructure), the interior section of a
heat pump, and personal storage. There’s also lots of room inside the
tail structure, inside the wings, under the floor panels, in the wheel
wells, and other areas, though none of these, except the interior of
the tail, provide stand up room. I plan to put a small deck on the
“second floor” inside the tail, just behind the number two engine
cowling, through which the view is breathtaking. It should be a
terrific place for a rare epiphany or two, or romance.

Want more room? Get a wide body. My understanding is that a
Boeing 747 provides 4,500 square feet of exhilarating aerospace
quality – it’s a bona fide castle. And that doesn’t include the
freight holds, which I suspect provide stand up room ceiling heights.
I was fortunate enough to tour the cabin area of one with the seats
out, awaiting destruction, and the roominess is absolutely remarkable.
What a shame that it was destroyed. But you can’t haul a wide body
down the road, so if it’s to be converted into a home, it has to be
landed very close to the home site – within direct towing or taxi
distance over open fields. Let’s team up, buy a couple of hundred
acres of land in a very nice area in Montana, Alaska, Arizona or some
other great place, put in a strip on one side that’s just large enough
to land the wide bodies in empty configuration, fly them in, taxi them
to their individual lots, posh them out, and sell them for one to two
megabucks each. Well executed, and based upon my personal experience
in the empty 747, I’m convinced they’d move at that price – and be a
bargain. But I’d like a corner lot for myself.

* Why not just live in a stick house like everyone else?: The
practical reasons: I don’t mean to offend, but wood is in my view a
terrible building material. It biodegrades – it’s termite chow. And
microbe (rot) chow. Or it’s firewood. It just depends upon which
happens first. It’s a relatively weak material, and it’s secured with
low tech fasteners using low tech techniques. And traditional
rectangular designs are inferior structurally – they unreasonably
sacrifice strength for boxy ergonomics (geodesic structures solve this
problem at least). Rectangular stick homes can’t withstand sever winds
or severe earthquakes, they frequently kill people when they explode
into flames, they’re easily broken into by burglars, they’re leaky,
and they degrade quickly. On the positive side, they are relatively
economical to build (although geodesic homes are too).

But retired airliners are profoundly well designed, high tech,
aerospace quality sealed pressure canisters that can withstand 575 mph
winds and seven G acceleration forces with ease, could last for
centuries (with effective corrosion control), are highly fire
resistant, and provide superior security. They’re among the finest
structures that mankind has ever built.

But when aircraft are retired from service, they’re usually just
cut into scrap. To me it makes no sense at all to destroy the finest
structures available and then turn around and build homes out of
materials which are fundamentally little better than pressed
cardboard, using ancient and inferior design and building methods.

But what about the wisdom of the herd? “Normal” counts for
precious little, especially if you’re on fire, or feeling the walls
tumble in upon you in a big earthquake, or looking down the barrel of
an intruder’s gun, or wondering why the home you worked all your life
for is rotting out from under you. Think of it this way: When you
enter an airliner, don’t you get the feeling that you’re suddenly
wrapped in a much higher order of technology than in any other
“building” you encounter in everyday life? A feeling of strength,
security, capability and ergonomics that eclipses any other, almost as
if you were in a home designed 50 years in the future? Imagine
removing all the clutter, such as the seats, the overhead
compartments, and all those pesky other people who also have flight
tickets. What’s left is an open, ultra high tech home with none of the
disadvantages of working airliners crammed with people. That’s what
this project is all about. My feeling is: Pick a path based upon what
makes the most sense to you and ignore the herd – let them follow each
other over the edge of the nearest cliff.

The real reason: It’s a great toy. Trick doors, trick floors.
Hatches here, latches there, clever gadgets everywhere. Cool interior
lights, awesome exterior lights, sleek look, titanium ducts, Star Trek
movies a Star Trek like setting. It’s a constant exploratory
adventure, ever entertaining, providing fundamental sustenance for a
middle aged technology nerd like me. Having lots of little toys is
very fulfilling. Having lots of little toys enclosed in a very big toy
is nirvana.

* What’s the project schedule?: I work as fast as I can, but I
have a small business to run too (Hypatia Inc.), and I’m not rich and
thus can’t simply hire hands to do everything. Also, the considerable
magnitude of the very thorough cleaning process I elected to undertake
took me by surprise. So things take time. My hope is that I’ll have
the pressure washing (inside and out), the exterior work, consisting
of reattaching the wings, tail, and engine cowlings, and building the
three cylindrical landing gear support pillars*, and the basic
interior infrastructure work, consisting of water, sewer, electrical
and telecom, all complete and singed off by inspectors by the time the
good weather of summer and fall 2002 ends. Then I’ll attend to
interior refinement and polish items.

*These will be steel or concrete pillars with a concave top
contour to serve as circular wheel chocks. A chain or elevator cable
will be anchored in each of the pillars and attached to the main
struts with enough play so that the gear can wander up to but not over
the edge of the pillars in a severe earthquake.

* How will the infrastructure be executed?: The existing
infrastructure is of aerospace quality, and the aircraft is almost a
city unto itself – a lot of what’s needed is already there. Since the
quality is so high, as I understand it many of the directly usable
elements can meet code requirements as alternate construction. (And
that makes sense – why tear out superior round titanium air ducts with
profoundly high quality welded seams and aerospace quality clamps and
replace them with rectangular tin conduits sealed with duct tape?)

The water system can probably be used essentially as it is.
There’s a simple water connection port on the side of the aircraft,
and I now have the mating connector.

The sewage system empties through the two original service
ports, one in front and one in the rear. I’ve acquired the mating
connectors for those too, as well as the associated water injection
port connectors. So completing the sewage system is just a matter of
connecting the outdoor lines, which will need to incorporate gas traps
and vent conduits. But another possibility is to modify the internal
sewer lines to incorporate gas traps, and internally connect existing
titanium conduits which ultimately route up through the tail to the
sewer lines to provide gas venting.

The climate control system is a bit harder, but not much. My
original plan: The existing ducts will be married to a heat pump, with
the interior portion of the heat pump located in the climate control
bay and the exterior portion aft and below, adjacent to the heat
exchanger vents in the belly, or perhaps in the right wing where the
auxiliary power unit exhaust used to be (those areas are external to
the ‘pressurized’ interior). The fuselage is a sealed pressure
canister, so controlled air exchange is required to avoid suffocation.
So the system must route some outside air through the fuselage using
the existing air intake and exhaust ports, and passing it through a
filter and heat exchanger.

But now that energy conservation has become so critical, I may
deviate from that original plan. I may consider a heating strategy
that simply ports heated air from a heat pump or other heat source,
such as a solar heated water tank, directly into the center of the
cabin area. That would eliminate losses associated with heat flow from
the duct network to nearby cooler walls.

Domestic electricity will have to be done more from scratch. But
there are lots of very easily accessed areas through which the Nomex
wiring can be routed, so it should be a pretty straightforward job
relatively speaking. I’m going to use IEC 320 type 120 Vrms connectors
(like the one on the back of your computer) rather than the
traditional grotesque and dangerous NEMA 15 style normally installed
in homes. (Smoking and NEMA 15 connectors will not be allowed in my
aircraft.) And of course all sorts of high and low voltage 400 Hz
electrical service is routed to the original illumination devices,
both interior and exterior, including the SPF 35 landing and taxi
lights, and I intend to put all of that back into service. I’ll
acquire or build a 60 Hz to 400 Hz power converter to facilitate that.

The water heater, water pressure tanks (well system), and other
heavy life support items will probably be located toward the back of
the rear cargo area, where their heavy weight will help to restore the
original balance of the aircraft, partly compensating for the loss of
the engines. The backup electrical generator will probably be placed
between the main landing gear bays, where the APU used to be, but
another possibility is to locate it inside either the left or the
right engine nacelle. All of those locations are rain sheltered but
open to outdoor air.

I’m going to try to connect all the service lines to the
fuselage by means of a drop line from a pole, simulating as best I can
a missile gantry to missile service line (but without the explosive
bolts). The sewer lines may be a modified version of this though,
since they have to maintain a downhill profile. I’ll also install
several extra conduits in the landing gear pillars before concrete is
poured so that I can route service lines into the fuselage via
conduits adjacent to the landing gear, both main and nose, if later
deemed advantageous.

In addition to all that, there are oxygen lines throughout the
cabin which are designed to handle pressurized air, and I’ll test a
connection of that system to my compressor so that, if it can safely
handle the pressure, I’ll have shop air available on one side of the
fuselage. I plan to connect the other side to the water system, and
connect several of the many ports to sprinkler heads, yielding a fire
suppression system.

* How will the interior be configured?: Studio apartment style,
that is, essentially one large room. I’m single and live in the woods.
I have precious little need for walls, except around the bathrooms and
shower (and then only because of occasional guests). It’s all subject
to change, but as I currently envision it:

The cockpit will be cyber office and virtual exploration space –
it will be loaded with Macintoshes supporting my usual work and
personal interest projects, and running flight avionics and navigation
emulation screen savers when not in active use. My hope is to
restructure the cockpit so as to resemble somewhat a modern video
based flight deck, while also supporting my daily cyber needs. These
systems may eventually be integrated with the home so that certain
aircraft and domestic functions such as telecom, lighting, climate
control, entertainment and security are automated through the cockpit
Macs. The left cockpit wall and the cockpit door were removed to open
the area to the cabin. I could also remove most or all of the flight
engineer’s station and seat since it cramps the area. But that’s not
my current inclination – at this time I’m inclined to try to find a
way to functionalize it. This is much longer term, but I may try to
mount the two control yokes on quick disconnect shaft couplers, and
the anti glare dash on quick disconnect supports, so that the cockpit
area can be easily converted from an aviation theme to a domestic room
theme, the latter providing more personal maneuvering room and a
better view through the windows.

The three lavatories: I’m skinny, and I don’t spend any more
time than is necessary in lavatories, so I suspect that their small
sizes won’t be annoying to me. So the lavs will remain essentially as
is except as follows, unless building codes force modifications. The
left rear lav might be converted into a shower stall. But it’s more
likely that I’ll keep it as is as a guest lav and add a separate
shower room next to the right rear lav, which is the only one which
isn’t adjoined by other structure. It’s also possible that I’ll
substantially remodel the right rear lav, making it larger and
incorporating an integral shower stall. We’ll see…

The forward galley alcove, known as the number one and number
two galleys, will probably be the kitchen area. I’ll install a
domestic microwave oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, possibly a freezer,
and sink. I won’t install a conventional oven or stove, since I never
use them (I’m a nerd – I don’t cook). The rear galley alcove, known as
the number three and number four galleys), will be utility room. I’ll
install a utility washer (a dishwasher for tools and other hardware
cleaning) and probably a utility sink there, and a clothes washer and
dryer next close by.

Two small metal working machines – a sheet metal cutting and
bending machine and a metal band saw – and a hardware bench will
probably be located at the right rear adjacent to the right rear
lavatory (or enlarged lavatory). Or not, especially with regard to the
band saw, because it’s an unmanageable source of dust sized debris.

The original forward closet assembly was removed – it’s a bit
tattered and cluttered the area. If I decide later that it’d be useful
I can put it back in, but that seems unlikely at this time.

The rest of the cabin will be open and of variable layout. A
futon bed somewhere, a rarely used water bed somewhere else (but
toward the rear for better aircraft balance), a nerd’s lab and small
production area, spartan domestic furnishings, audio and video
entertainment systems, and lots of miscellaneous nerdly toys,
including more computers. Many of these items are already on casters,
including the electronics equipment which is generally in electronics
racks on casters. I’ll scatter them initially, and let evolution take
its course.

The entire length of the “S” duct in the tail area has been
removed. Now there’s extra room in this outdoor but rain sheltered
area for whatever uses seem appropriate, probably including stairs to
a small upper level deck for relaxation, reflection and perhaps
romance, taking advantage of a wonderful view through the center
engine cowling of the local tree tops, and a bit of the local valley
and the distant mountains.

* How well does the original insulation perform?: I don’t know.
This is a frequent question, and certainly significant in these times,
but I won’t be able to answer it until I’ve moved in and can make some
performance measurements. The insulation is pervasive, and very nice –
it’s all sewn into custom designed, tight containers that fit
precisely around whatever structure is involved. Some say insulation
performance must be excellent since the outside temperature at flight
elevations is commonly -50°C. But my understanding is that the engines
burn very roughly 30 gallons a minute total in cruise, so my guess is
that there’s a lot of excess heat available. My guess is that the
level of insulation chosen for the aircraft involved a design tradeoff
in which the total weight of the insulation, the weight of the climate
control systems, and the noise of air circulation, among other
factors, were involved. I’ll try to run a test later in which I
monitor indoor and outdoor air temperature differential and heat pump
cycles over a 24 hour period, roughly calculate a surface area, and
then calculate a rough insulation performance figure. But be patient –
this is not a high priority item for me.

* Don’t the zoning and building codes folks cause serious
problems?: I can’t speak for other regions, but in this area: Not in
my experience. One has to be willing to do the work – to jump through
all the hoops. But I’ve never experienced any obstructionism – the
authorities have approached the project with open minds and
renaissance attitudes. I don’t enjoy having to slog through the code
details any more than anyone else, but getting frustrated or upset
with the county folks accomplishes nothing except to make their lives
unnecessarily miserable. I think we’re all inclined to complain about
whether this task or that task is really necessary from time to time,
but perhaps ultimately they all are, and all we’re really doing is
engaging in avoidance behavior – trying in vain to sidestep the
required work. In my view it’s better to save the energy by avoiding
the avoidance behavior, and just accomplish the required tasks
directly, and move on.

* Are you really a middle aged nerd?: Hmmm, well, yes, I’m pretty
sure I am. This project might suggest otherwise on occasion, but a
fish out of water is still a fish. I’m 52, BSEE, socially inept,
skinny, easily intimidated physically, and never married. (But somehow
I did manage to pass the threshold that tragically evaded Sir Isaac
Newton.) I’ve spent most of my life hunched over a soldering iron or a
terminal. Dyed in the wool. But I’ve made some progress – I used to be
a geek. Also: Vegetarian. The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace and PETA
contributor. I’ve never smoked cigarettes. But I did inhale briefly in
the 70’s. (Just a brief exploratory phase.) My religion: The
Scientific Method. The next great event in my estimation: An actual
HAL-9000 like sentient silicon based life form. Associative processing
technology and life sciences (and Deep Blue) have put us on the
threshold – it will likely occur quite soon. It is very compelling,
but very dangerous – such beings will continuously acquire, analyze,
organize, and correlate information and knowledge at very high speeds,
24 hours a day, without sex drive or hunger distractions (or at least
not our versions of them). And, like all life forms, they will be
highly driven to survive and propagate in an environment which is
inherently resource limited (Earth), and therefore inherently
competitive. They will become much more powerful than we are very,
very quickly. Confrontation would be futile, and provocation
profoundly stupid. A brave attempt to agree to coexist will be
necessary without delay – we can’t afford to react out of fear.

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