The Quest To Turn An Ex Air New Zealand 747 Into A Wanaka Airport Hotel

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A fellowship of aviation enthusiasts is doing all it can to save an old Boeing 747 from the scrapheap. The group, headed by Radio New Zealand National announcer Paul Brennan, hopes to convert the ex-Air New Zealand jet into a hotel at Wanaka Airport.

The Air New Zealand 747 is parked in Spain and headed for a U.S scrapheap. Photo: Getty Images

A boutique hotel next to an airport

Bring Our Birds Home, the group behind the investment, wants to purchase the 747 for between NZ$1 million to 2 million ($710,000 to $1,420,000) before it is consigned to the junkyard. The aircraft in question is the last remaining original Air New Zealand 747 jet, giving it irreplaceable sentimental value. As Brennan told the NZ Herald,

“We don’t want to lose it because it’s the only original Air New Zealand 747 left.”

The Air New Zealand 747-400 was decorated with a special Lord of the Rings livery. Photo: Getty Images

The plan is to position the 747 by the National Transport and Toy Museum, directly adjacent to Wanaka Airport, and develop it into a boutique hotel. While it was still in service with Air New Zealand, the 747-400 was painted with a scene from Lord of the Rings, the fantasy epic which was famously filmed across New Zealand. Brennan noted the potential appeal of the plane:

“It’s well known to Lord of the Rings fans around the world and that’s another added attraction if you are trying to get people to go stay there.”

The plane is too heavy to land at Wanaka Airport

The most feasible method of getting the 747 to Wanaka Airport would be to land at Christchurch International Airport before trucking the plane to Wanaka Airport. The aircraft would need to be split into parts and driven roughly 400 km across New Zealand’s South Island. However, Bring Our Birds Home is hopeful that the jet can fly directly to Wanaka as a fitting final flight.

AIr New Zealand LOTR 747
The plane would need to land in Christchurch before its parts are transported across the country. Photo: Getty Images

The problem is that Wanaka Airport was not built for such large aircraft. The airport’s runway is rated for 21 tonnes; an empty Boeing 747-400 weighs in at 170 tonnes. Commercial pilot Terry Hetherington told the Otago Daily Times,

“It would do massive amounts of damage to the runway. I would say, it would plough it like a paddock.”

Queenstown Airport Corporation, the group that manages Wanaka Airport, has already ruled out allowing a 747 to land at Wanaka. General Manager of Operations and Safety, Mike Clay, stated,

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“A 747 is too big and too heavy to safely land at Wanaka Airport.”

Is a 747 hotel a good idea?

This isn’t the first time someone has had the idea of converting an aircraft into a hotel. At Stockholm Arlanda Airport, travelers can spend the night in ‘Jumbo Stay‘ – guests can even book the cockpit suite for special occasions.

jumbo stay Tower Air
An old 747 was converted into the ‘Jumbo Stay’ hotel at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Photo: Jumbo Stay

Airlines have become increasingly creative in their use of old aircraft, especially during the COVID pandemic. This includes Singapore Airlines converting an A380 into a stationary restaurant. Simple Flying got the opportunity to review a five-course selection onboard the A380 restaurant only last month.

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Would you stay at a 747 hotel if you got the chance? Let us know in the comments.

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