Jetliner Home in the Woods
Since 1999, Bruce Campbell has been gradually transforming a 727 jetliner into his dream home. That's unusual, but what's even more unusual is that the jet is not parked on the edge of some easy-to-reach tarmac. It's on the upper slope of a forested hill in Oregon's wine country. People innocently hiking through the woods probably blink in wonder when they first see Bruce's homestead. We did, and we already knew that it was there.
Though it's not easy to find, Bruce wants people to see his home. He's a busy guy, however, and he wasn't around when we visited. So Bruce's friend Mark gave us a tour.
"Bruce is a one-man person, kind of a do-it-yourselfer," said Mark. "And he's a real wonder with getting stuff into position." That's easy to see. Offhand, we can't think of anyone we know of who could navigate a full-size jetliner onto a wooded hillside and then somehow hoist it horizontally onto support props (Perhaps Bruce mastered the secret levitation techniques used by Ed Leedskalnin at Coral Castle).
We were fascinated by the jet's nose wheel, which rested on a teetering pile of pallets. Bruce later assured us that the pile was only temporary (it's since been joined by a second, more substantial stack of timbers) and said that even if it collapsed, the plane probably wouldn't move, much. We figured that if the pile was good enough for Bruce, it was good enough for us. So we climbed up onto a wing, followed Mark for a long walk along its hollow edge -- clomp clomp clomp -- through an emergency escape door, and into the fuselage.
Bruce's home has a bachelor's haphazard decor. A suit of armor stood next to a plastic milk crate packed with tennis ball canisters filled with bolts and screws. Big jugs of vitamins testified to the energy needed to remodel a jetliner. Homey touches included liquid soap dispensers on the bathroom vanity, laundry neatly folded beside the washing machine, and clean dinnerware drying on a dish rack.
Hundreds of clear plastic fruit juice bottles lay in a pile; we were told that Bruce planned to squash them into shock absorbers for his landing gear.
The view out the windows of the cockpit (Bruce's future office), which once extended hundreds of miles to the earth's horizon, now reaches just a couple of feet to the leaves of a tree.
For all of its rough edges, everything in Bruce's jet home was spotlessly clean ("I despise indoor dirt," he told us). Shoes have to be left out on the wing. Even the empty fruit juice jugs, Mark said, were power-washed before Bruce would allow them inside. And Bruce has replaced the entire cabin floor with clear plexiglass, to better appreciate the cabling guts of the aircraft.
Bruce wants people to visit his plane because he thinks that old jetliners make terrific homes. Fireproof, bug-proof, built to withstand extremes beyond anything on the earth's surface, the passenger jet cabin is a pressure-sealed capsule of security.
Bruce even feels comfortable standing underneath it. "I view being under the fuselage as one of the safest places I can be," he told us, "even in the very worst earthquake." Old jetliners are constantly being retired and are easy to purchase, according to Bruce, as long as you promise not to be a terrorist. Bruce told us that he's currently looking into acquiring a 747.
We still haven't met Bruce. We don't even know what he looks or sounds like (We kept in touch through e-mail). Mark described him as "lightweight physically, not a huge lumberjack," and Bruce calls himself a "middle-aged technology nerd." We imagine him as a kind of conservationist crusader, tirelessly recycling industrial waste on a grand scale. But Bruce freely admits that his home is "a great toy," so he would seem to be a not-completely-serious goof at heart.
Bruce chronicles the continuing construction of his home on his web site www.AirplaneHome.com.