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With the recent interest in and growth of van life, more people have converted vehicles into living spaces. As the name suggests, a van is often converted into a camper. But that’s not the only option. With many retired planes out there, there is the possibility of recycling vintage airliners into a dream RV.

Vintage airliners that no longer fly

One of the older vintage airliners that could potentially be transformed into an RV.
An older vintage airliner | Getty Images

The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) estimates that 15,000 aircraft will be retired over the next 20 years. Aircraft owners have expressed interest in getting rid of these old planes in environmentally safe ways. While as much as 80 to 90% of a plane’s materials can be reused or recycled, turning a vintage aircraft into an RV is also possible.

There are numerous old planes of various sizes in scrapyards around the United States. Just one location, the well-known Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, has around 4,000 old planes, says Autoevolution. In addition, there are about seven facilities for storing or disassembling aircraft in just California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Recycling vintage airliners into RVs

One benefit of repurposing a plane rather than recycling it is that it’s less energy intensive than recycling individual materials. Reusing the plane’s shell could offer an environmentally conscious way to create additional housing. Reusing interior features, like the cockpit, intercom systems, or airplane restrooms and kitchens can add flair to accompany the more standard RV features being added, like engines and beds.

While people have repurposed everything from school buses to train cars into homes, turning a vintage airliner into an RV creates a unique option. A Michigan man turned a World War II 1943 Douglas DC-3 Transport aircraft into a 300-square-foot Class A motorhome, reports Insider. The plane still has some of its original features, but it also includes an enlarged kitchen, several beds, and a bathtub. It took him a year to complete the conversion, with the help of his family, and he named the RV plane “The Fabulous Flamingo.”

Specifications of airliner RVs

The specifications of a converted airliner depend on the size of the plane being turned into an RV. If an average Boeing 737-700 cabin were converted to an RV, Autoevolution estimates it would have about 900 square feet of area. That’s bigger than some apartments. The Boeing 737-400 has an approximate area of 958 square feet, with a cabin length of 82.6 feet and a cabin width of 11.6 feet, says West Palm Jets. It also has a cabin height of 7.1 feet.

Owners without their own mechanical expertise may want to hire someone to take care of the camper conversion to make the old plane into a new RV. Depending on the state, requirements differ regarding a Class A motorhome’s maximum length, width, and underpass clearance. There are also differences in whether these RVs need to stop at roadside weigh scales and what they can tow. If the RV conversion is large enough, the driver may need a commercial driver’s license (CDL), reports Camping World. To make the former plane moveable again, it can be mounted on a motorhome chassis or a box truck chassis. People more interested in having a home in one location may skip the wheels altogether.

Anyone considering an RV, whether to join the van life or for weekend camping, may want to consider creating a unique RV out of a vintage airliner. It’s one way to have a fully custom space and attract plenty of interest out on the road.


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