You know the old saying “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”? This sentiment rings true throughout the world of aviation. The certification requirements and miniscule production runs of airplane components ensures everything from crumpled, rusted out airframe scraps in a bone yard to a run-out cylinder or decapitated taxiway light retains value.
Oh, sometimes the lucky detritus is refurbished and lives on as part of an airworthy airplane, but just as often the bits end up elsewhere. And I’m not referring to the traditional recycling process, although I’ve no doubt that many stout airframes have suffered the indignity of rebirth as a beer can. Instead, the aforementioned red-tagged cylinder becomes a kitschy planter. That busted taxiway light is transformed into an accent light for the office. Cockpit instruments become classroom visual aids. It’s not just for parts, either — complete aircraft have found new life as lawn ornaments, restaurants, water slides, museum pieces, and even family homes.
In 2004, the Discovery Channel aired “Wing Nuts”, a short-lived series about a firm that turns airplane junk into artistic treasure. I don’t remember much about the show — it only lasted one season — but the company, MotoArt, is still in business. They transform aircraft parts into imaginative yet functional furniture. Beds, desks, tables, chairs, bars, and so on.
Even the briefest of glances at their web site will demonstrate the love and passion Motoart puts into their deliciously elegant products, but before you fall in love, be warned: they don’t come cheap! The first clue is the total lack of pricing information on their site. “Call for price” has never really been synonymous with “inexpensive”, has it?
The item which always catches my eye there is a Gulfstream II desk. It consists of the outerboard-most eight to fifteen feet of a Gulfstream II wing in bare metal, polished to a high shine and covered with a matching top layer of glass. Why the G-II? I assume it’s because the winglet on later models would render the conversion a bit more challenging. The wingtip is the beautiful part of the airfoil, not to mention the only place where the wing is narrow enough to be useable as a desk. The inboard portions are too wide and thick to be serviceable as a piece of furniture; that’s a hurdle I doubt even Motoart can overcome.
Since I fly Gulfstreams, it feels mildly gruesome coveting such an item, especially after my recent paean to the first G-II jet and the majestic post-flying treatment it’s received. But the truth is that most retired airplanes — even Gulfstreams — will be parted out or end up in a bone yard somewhere. One could argue that the desk represents a more dignified fate than simply leaving the carcass of a once proud airplane outside to fade and rot under the harsh UV as it’s covered with excrement by nesting birds. It’s a moot point anyway; I inquired about the cost of the desk and was quoted $18,900… for the small one. Can you imagine how much the fourteen foot long DC-4 conference table would command?
Still, a guy can wish, can’t he? Since Christmas is just around the corner, I dropped a hint to my wife about the radial piston lamp, a relative bargain at $165.00. But I’m not too hung up on it. Motoart’s products are delightful, but no desk could ever beat the experience of actually flying these birds. That’s the greatest gift of all.
This entry is part of an ongoing collaborative writing project entitled “Blogging in Formation”.