✈️ Fly me to the woods

Warning! You might need equal parts hiking boots and aviator goggles to read this article. Most Portlanders know that somewhere around Hillsboro, deep in the woods, dappled by tree limbs, is a retired Boeing 747 jetliner that has been converted into a private residence (which is why we asked permission to visit beforehand; manners, got it?). What you might not know is the incredible life of Bruce Campbell (Not THAT Bruce Campbell though), and the story of how he converted this ship of the skies into the perfect home.

You can now unfasten your seatbelts and move about the cabin — let’s dive in.

Somewhere south of Hillsboro you’ll find a Boeing 747 deep in the woods. But it’s not just any plane — this aircraft once transported the body of Aristotle Onassis back to Greece for his burial, with the one and only Jackie Onassis and family flying in the main cabin.

Once it was retired for airline use, the jetliner was purchased in 1999 by Bruce Campbell for $100,000 and then converted into a home. The whole thing has water, electricity, and sewage plus 1,066 square-feet of interior space. Campbell is part of an organization called Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA), which is responsible for converting retired aircraft into homes or other creative spaces.

“When properly executed, the remarkable appeal of a retired jetliner as a home springs from the magnificent technology and beauty of the sculptured structure itself,” Campbell told Atlas Obscura. “Jetliners are masterful works of aerospace science, and their superlative engineering grace is unmatched by any other structures people can live within. They’re incredibly strong, durable, and long lived. And they easily withstand any earthquake or storm. Their interior is easy to keep immaculately clean because they are sealed pressure canisters, so dust and insects can’t intrude from the outside. And they’re highly resistant to intruders. So the human hearts inside feel wonderfully safe and comfortable. And their interiors are exceptionally modern and refined, and provide a wealth of unique amenities, superb lighting and climate control, and overwhelming storage space. Once the rows of seats are removed, their profound appeal as a family living environment becomes immediately obvious.”

Campbell lives pretty modestly inside the old 747 — he sits and sleeps on a Futon mattress and heats up his meals using a microwave and a toaster oven. He has also been known to throw concerts and parties on the wings of the plane (like this throwback with WPU president the Unipiper doing his thing during a midnight rave).

When asked why he prefers living in the plane as opposed to a standard modern home, Campbell had this to say:

“The practical reasons: I don’t mean to offend, but in my view, wood is a terrible building material. It biodegrades — it’s termite chow. And microbe (rot) chow. Or it’s unintentional firewood. It just depends upon which happens first. It’s a relatively weak material which is 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 severe winds nor severe earthquakes, they frequently kill people when they burst into flames, they’re rather easily entered by burglars, they’re leaky, and they degrade rapidly.”

If you’re interested in stopping by to see Campbell’s home for yourself, he recommends you get in contact with him beforehand and he’d be happy to talk shop about tours and upcoming events.

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