In recent months, we have been following the exciting developments in the UK surrounding a new lease of life for an ex-Japan Airlines Boeing 727. Tomorrow will finally see it travel by road to its new home in Bristol. Ahead of the move, Simple Flying had the opportunity to speak to Johnny Palmer, the man behind the project.
Arranging the transport
The logistics of planning the move required Palmer to liaise with various administrative bodies. Indeed, PytchAir’s ambitious aircraft repurposing project almost looked at one stage as if it wouldn’t get off the ground. Having been denied a certificate of permitted development, the project was eventually granted full planning permission, as Johnny explains.
“We started by looking at getting a thing called a certificate of permitted development. We then subsequently went for full planning permission, which is the same as what you might get if you’re trying to build a house. After a long, drawn-out battle, they said yes.”
The unique nature (and abnormal size compared to typical lorry loads) of the precious cargo demands significant police support. This is due to the traffic disruption that the 727, which will straddle two motorway lanes on its journey from Cotswold Airport to Bristol, is likely to cause. Johnny explains:
“I’m using Cook Transport. Simon Cook gives notice to the Highways Agency, who subsequently inform the police that there’ll be a wide load going. Because it’s so unique and very wide and very long, we’ll have a police escort following us down the M5 and M4.”
An ideal aircraft for the job
While Palmer explains that the choice of the 727 was partly down to being what was available, it is also well-suited for its new role. As Simple Flying explored last November, the aircraft served in its later years as a corporate jet.
Johnny sees this as being “the icon of hyper-consumption.” As such, repurposing the former luxury aircraft as an office space and art installation will offer it a more sustainable post-flying future. Another aspect that made the aircraft ideal is that it had already been modified for road transport, saving Palmer and his team significant costs.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
While Palmer is not a pilot himself, nor did he ever fly on a 727 as a passenger, he has expressed his desire to travel on the zero-gravity 727 affectionately known as the ‘vomit comet.’ He did spend a day working as a flight engineer on one of the trijets, and explains:
“My good friend Mark at Air Salvage International did kindly invite me to be a flight engineer for a day on a 727. He’s got one there which, while not airworthy, does work. He does some taxing operations every now and again, and I sat in the flight engineer’s seat. I got to turn on the GPU, synchronize the generators, work on the air conditioning packs, and also keep an eye on the dials. I got shouted at quite a lot as well because I nearly flicked a few of the wrong buttons!“
The big move
The aircraft is set to depart Cotswold Airport tomorrow morning at 09:00 local time. After a low-speed journey which will see its speed limited to around 20mph, it will reach Pytch HQ (21 Bonville Road, BS4 5QH) in the evening.
Crane operations to position the fuselage will commence the following morning at 10:00. During the journey, Johnny plans to “milk the whole experience,” as “this might be the only time in my life I move a 727 down a motorway!” He intends to sit in the lorry cab as his precious cargo trundles down the M4 and M5, with livestreams planned for its departure and arrival.
The fuselage will serve primarily internally as an office space, and externally as an art installation. However, Palmer is open to the prospect of welcoming visitors to the project by appointment. He states that he wants to “make it accessible to people, to give people inspiration, to help people with their engineering, and just to have some characters come on over.”
He recommends that people who want to come and see the 727 should get in touch with him by email. Johnny’s condition is that “as long as you’re a nice person, I’ll gladly have you onboard!” With the UK tentatively looking to make its way out of lockdown over the coming months, the project may well prove very popular indeed.
What do you make of Mr Palmer’s use of a Boeing 727 fuselage as a new office space? Have you heard of or visited similar projects elsewhere? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!