How discarded aircraft components end up as furniture

May 15, 2022

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Who needs IKEA when you can use pieces of an airline cabin to furnish your living room?

Austrian Airlines has put some economy class seats and cabin trolleys up for auction. The seats became available when the airline expanded its premium economy section on three Boeing 767s; to do so, the airline removed about 10 economy seats and two business class seats from each aircraft.

As of May 11, bids were in the $676 (650 euros) to $1,145 (1,100 euros) range — up from a starting price of between $249.89 (240 euros) for a two-seat set and $374.84 (360 euros) for a three-seat set. The highest bid for the cabin trolley was $249.89 (240 euros), up from the original $52.06 (50 euros) asking price.

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The auction, which is open to everyone, will take place on May 21 on Austrian auction firm Aurena’s site, and proceeds will go to Nachbar in Not, a non-profit organization that is providing humanitarian aid to people suffering in the Ukraine.

Image courtesy of Lex Karelly/Austrian Airlines

If you miss the Austrian auction but still want to get your hands on some aircraft metal, you will have an opportunity to bid for a piece of aviation history later this year.

On October 13-15, Airbus will be auctioning nearly 500 items that used to belong to MSN13, one of the first A380s to fly. The auction will take place in Toulouse, France, as well as online.

It’s not just lamps, seats or handrails that will go under the hammer, but also the orange flight suit worn by Claude Lelaie, one of the two test pilots who conducted the A380s flight test campaign back in 2005 ahead of the plane’s entry into service.

The money collected through this auction will fund several charitable causes, as well as AIRitage, a French organization dedicated to the preservation of aviation’s historical heritage.

The auction gives aviation enthusiasts the chance to collect cabin fittings without intermediaries, but it is hardly the only way for old aircraft parts to end up as home or office decor. There is a whole cottage industry that specializes in the business of giving a new lease of life to all sorts of discarded aircraft components and fittings.

“I visited a friend at an airport hangar and I saw a mountain of used aircraft seats, all randomly piled up. The first thing  that came to my mind was that those seats had been all over the world, they were full of stories. They couldn’t be just thrown away like that because they were not flying anymore,” according to Emre Ozkul, founder and managing director of Skyart.

Turkey-based Skyart has three lines of business: it supplies whole cabin sections, which are used for cabin crew training, and it also serves the film and advertising industries with aircraft-themed movie sets. Additionally, its in-house team of designers has developed a whole range of furniture concepts, such as the so-called “Volant chair” line, an economy class seat modified to become a rolling office chair, as well as many other custom-made pieces of decor.

A bit further north, in the UK, brothers Ben and Harry Tucker have also been scavenging old aircraft and turning the scraps into designer furniture items that they sell under the brand Plane Industries.

Based near the historical city of Bath, England, the Tuckers’ workshop benefits from its proximity to Britain’s two aircraft scrapping yards, Cotswolds Airport (GBA) in England and St. Athan (RAF) in Wales.

“For quite some time we had a constant supply of Boeing 747 parts. They kept trickling in as British Airways retired its jumbo fleet, but we are also getting plenty of components from more common types such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s and A330s,” explains Ben Tucker, before adding that their main differentiation point from competitors is the stylish edge with which they imprint their creations.

Image courtesy of Lex Karelly/Austrian Airlines

Conference tables are made out of the polished side fuselage section of an Airbus A320, a clock’s hands use the gap where an aircraft window used to be or a bar is cut out of an engine casing.

“We wanted to cross boundaries, create something original and unique,” said Ben Tucker, who didn’t have any connections to the aviation industry before starting this business in 2013.

If there is one item that the two entrepreneurs are really proud of, it is the spinning chairs which use the curvy contours of jet engine cowlings, either from a Boeing 737 or a BAe 146, to envelop whomever sits on their leather-upholstered interior with a bubble-like cocoon.

Featured photo by Minyeong Lee/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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