Psssst! Who Wants to Buy a Used Boeing 747, CHEAP?

13 Nov

Aviation Week outlines the market forces behind the coming surge in used 747 inventories:

Mass retirement is looming for the world’s fleet of aging freighters, especially Boeing 747-200s. Boeing says that 40% of the 320 747 freighters in service are at least 25 years old but keep flying because strong demand for new passenger jets and delays in delivery of Airbus A380s have suppressed the supply of replacement airplanes.  James Edgar, a cargo specialist with Boeing, says the old 747s “will be retired in droves” in the next few years as airframe production catches up with global traffic demand and passenger transports such as 747-400s are released for conversion to freighters.

Inevitably, a few of these vintage 747-200s will continue to fly, and some may be converted into technology testbeds or supersized VIP private jets.  (Heads-up Larry and Sergey!) Most, however, will be ferried out to the desert, broken up, and salvaged for scrap.

How much will a used 747 cost you? If you’re in the market for an entire aircraft, expect to pay around $100,000 for a complete hull that has been stripped of reusable components such as engines, landing gear, and cockpit avionics. Your hollowed-out but otherwise-intact 747 will probably look something like this:



What a bargain!  For far less than the cost of a new Ferrari, you could be the first on your block to have your very own 747. Particularly if you think the whole shipping container architecture thing has become a bit trite, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blaze new trails in the annals of creative-reuse. Don’t giggle: Various backwoods-types have already converted smaller Boeing 727s into prefab houses (interior views here), and a woman in Southern California made headlines in 2005 when it was learned that she planned to build a high-end house in the hills around Malibu using various pieces of a single 747.

That was two years ago, so Telstar Logistics contacted the the offices of David Hertz, the architect who designed the 747 House, to get an update on the project. We were told that the site work is complete and construction is getting underway, and that the concrete foundations will be poured soon. Here’s how the 747 House will look:


The 747 House: Main structure, left; Meditation pavilion, right. Illustrations via Syndesis, Inc.

If for various reasons a whole 747 is too much to swallow, you could also purchase select pieces of the airframe. For example, a 747 cockpit section could be converted into a sleek back yard studio or office pod:


Arched sections of 747 fuselage can be used to create Quonset huts or out-buildings, like this crude 747-based shed we saw in use at an aircraft scrapyard:


And if all that still seems a bit LARGE, remember that even random bits of 747 can look great if you display them as “recontextualized art.”  We speak here with some confidence, because in 2005 Telstar Logistics paid $375 for a big chunk of a Boeing 707. We then refinished the piece, added backlighting, and hung it on the wall of our Corporate Headquarters:


Perhaps we’re due for a widebody upgrade?

In any event, keep an eye out at a boneyard near you as those hundreds of old 747s begin to arrive for hospice care. If past trends are any guide, the scrapyards around Mojave, Calif.Victorville, Calif., and Marana, Ariz. are likely to become fertile ground for 747 bargain-hunters. 

Just don’t forget to bring your checkbook.


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