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A Boeing 747-400 Home Project

An option to a new $1M stick home:  A superb multimillion dollar aerospace technology castle.

Please bear with me for a rather extended period as I create an organized structure for this site.

Yuko Pomily:  Uniquely superb original music by a truly remarkable young composer and performer.  Purchase her magic.

Konnichiwa mina-san. Sumimasen, watashi no Nihongo wa yowai to gikochinai sugiru dakara, ima HikoukiIeV2.com wa Eigo de desu. Demo atarashii Nihongo honyaku tetsudau arimasu dakara, ato daitai ikkagetsu HikoukiIeV2.com wa Nihongo (Hiragana, Katakana, to Kanji) de nozomi masu. (Demo eien ni AirplaneHomeV2.com wa Eigo de desu.) Moshi kaiwa hoshii imeru shimasu kudasai. (Heta na Nihongo de, gomen ne...)

The Rationale:

Nothing compares to the exhilaration and satisfaction provided by an aerospace class home, and many people understand this instinctively. Humanity's current challenge is to devise efficient means and methods to economically site essentially complete retired jetliners as homes, making them much more commonly available. An elegantly executed project using an intact jetliner (except sans engines) is urgently needed to provide a compelling model which can be easily emulated. My dream is to accomplish this with the Airplane Home v2.0 project, ideally using a Boeing 747-400ER, hopefully starting in earnest within less than one year.

I also hope to execute this project on or near the shores of Kyushu, where it will serve not only as a private home, but perhaps also a crucial tsunami lifeboat for the local community. My hope is that many such home / lifeboat projects will follow in many tsunami risk areas in Nippon.

The concept of a jetliner as a lifeboat is unusual, but sound. It's difficult to understand because we naturally associate aircraft as objects which sink rather quickly. However, intact jetliner cabins are sealed pressure canisters. And, sans fuel, their fuel tanks (primarily the wings) are especially well sealed and highly durable flotation canisters. Both provide a great deal of buoyancy. Jetliners which impact the water in accidents are almost always seriously damaged, breaching the fuselage and fuel tanks, thus allowing water to flow inside. So they sink. (And sometimes they contain partial fuel loads, and thus are less buoyant even if they miraculously survive impact intact.)

But fully intact static jetliners, particularly with pressurization or modest water pump adjuncts, and especially when the fuel tanks are dry and thoroughly sealed, should float indefinitely unless badly damaged by massive, sharp, and swiftly moving waterborne debris (however, floating debris are very unlikely to puncture the fuel tanks due to their strength and geometry relative to debris flows). With proper tethering which allows vertical rise and flexibility, but not substantial horizontal drift, they're reliable and superb lifeboats. Placed along Nippon shores, one can imagine a perspective from space of Nippon itself as a ship, and the numerous aircraft on its shores as the ship's lifeboats. It's a compelling visage. Because it's a sound concept.

About three jetliners retire from active service every day. If many are placed on Nippon shores, they could save numerous lives someday. They certainly can't eliminate all tsunami tragedies. But they could provide an effective and reliable escape option for many people who live or work in nearby shoreline areas and are thus especially vulnerable. And this can be accomplished very economically using a readily available resource which, currently, is usually just discarded as if garbage. Mottainai... Potentially life wasting mottainai... The tsunami lifeboat benefit should be considered very carefully as the overall merits of this project are weighed.

Bruce Campbell

The background step, an exercise in developing concepts and experience:  HikoukiIe.com / AirplaneHome.com

Project Overview:
Updated 28 February 2016

I'd like to site an intact (likely except engines) retired Boeing 747-400ER or 747-400 aircraft near Miyazaki to serve as my private home. But the aircraft will provide frequent support for the community as well in the form of full press support, public tours, including student group tours, special events such as unique classes or social gatherings, and, my favorite, Concert on a Wing events, ultimately complete with choreographed aircraft illumination systems, including special dynamic adornments.

(My dream is for Yuko Pomily-san to perform on my wing someday, finishing deeply into dusk in a flourish with a robust rendition of "Arigatou" complete with 747 system choreography, perhaps to become an iconic Nippon experience. And Seiko-san's in my heart too of course...)

This is a full bird project - except for likely engine removal (but not engine cowlings), the aircraft will remain completely intact and functional even though it will never fly again. The engines will be retained too if they've reached full retirement time and have very little value. No salvage firm will be involved in any way at any time. And only the most minimal alterations will be made to the aircraft in the home transformation process - only those necessary to flush the existing toilets with domestic water, add domestic electrical outlets (but using safe and modern IEC-320 type outlets such as found on current IT equipment - no obsolete NEMA type will be utilized), add a full capacity 60 Hz to 400 Hz power converter, add one or two shower rooms and associated plumbing, and add a minimal array of domestic appliances and furnishings. And most native incandescent bulbs will be replaced with 28 Vdc capable LED bulbs (using the original sockets of course).

The idea is to retain the full scintillating aerospace tech core spirit and environment of the bird and allow it to wholly dominate. So the aircraft will be modified in only the most minimal manner practical. Most passenger seats will be removed (perhaps very roughly 75% of them) to create a far more spacious interior experience, and some furnishings will be installed. But otherwise it will look and feel almost entirely like the usual aircraft we all board from time to time.

I feel very strongly about this project - I'm convinced the need and opportunity to execute, with superb efficiency, a compelling model for use of these magnificent aerospace castles is long overdue. And I'm fortunate to have a reasonable (though not guaranteed) chance to either restore sufficient personal financial resources required to complete the endeavor, or assemble sufficiently productive partnerships to make the endeavor practical. My hope is this project will lead to something of a global human epiphany - a common realization that there are far better and surprisingly straightforward means of utilizing a truly great resource we've been woefully wasting for decades.

Due to the important cultural and historic connection, I'm terribly disappointed that I was too late to execute this project with an ANA or JAL 747-400. One last Nippon 747-400 remains, and I would dearly love to preserve it, but we can't wait for its retirement date for this particular project. And if there is to be a chance to acquire this bird for another project at a later date, the process will have to be managed with a great deal of deft and an unusually high level of respect even by the lofty standards of this land.

So a 747-400 from another country will need to be procured. If this project's superbly executed the airline's original livery should be retained in a mutually beneficial partnership which trades favorable aircraft acquisition terms for the substantial promotional benefits the firm would realize from the project. For more about this please see:  A Pitch to Airlines With Retiring 747-400s until it decides, wholly at its sole discretion, that the firm's livery shall be removed. If we execute this project very well, such a partnership might prove to be highly beneficial for both parties. I'm very eager to chat with any airline firm which might wish to explore this possibility. My sense is that the airline would derive a great deal of very positive global notoriety from the project - in my estimation well more than the retirement value of the aircraft. So I encourage all airlines which will retire more 747-400 aircraft (especially if a 747-400ER model) to consider this option very carefully.

More Detailed Project Notes:

Our team is currently studying a modest set of site location and logistics options. Areas in Shintomi and Nichinan have progressed to the level of initial conversations with local officials. And we've studied Oita Airport and its surrounding area as a potential site for transferring the aircraft from an airport to a barge or similar ship (the initial exploration and bulk of the Oita study and an important tranasport study were performed by superbly capable team member Ueda-san). These are exploratory conversations and studies - fully thorough studies have not been completed, nor have overall logistics selection decisions been made, nor draft proposals composed, and no commitments have been made by any parties. However, important preliminary work is progressing.

Land adjacent to Shintomi Airport appears to offer the easiest transport logistics at this time. It's very straightforward and very likely very economical since the aircraft can simply land at the airport and then be towed to an adjacent or nearby final site by a rather ordinary towing vehicle. A fence would have to be dismantled and then rebuilt, a very low cost element. Otherwise no special nor expensive transport elements are required. Shintomi's regular fighter jet flights are noisy but also fascinating - they are extreme performance aircraft and, viewed with a peacetime perspective, quite inspiring. The environment is rural and beautiful, and may be relatively salt air free.

Personally I find Shintomi very appealing. And I believe the site offers an important civic opportunity: The 747 home could be used as a very engaging venue to connect citizens with SDF members in a unique environment. An obvious possibility is regular "Party with the Jet Pilots" days in which citizens and students of all ages are free to socialize with SDF people in the 747 home, creating friendships and understanding of our mutual interest in maintaining peace in a complex world. A robust connection of trust and understanding between citizens and the SDF is of course very important for the country, and the 747 home should be utilized as another tool to nurture that connection. My hope is that Shintomi Airport people will find Concert on a Wing events appealing enough to attend many of them too, and thus leverage another opportunity to nurture connections with citizens.

Three separate sites in Nichinan are also being explored at this time. My first impression is that the southern most site, Nango Town District Port, is the only one which is practical for transport logistics. It's an intriguing site in a broad ocean port area yet essentially within Nango city, and on relatively high ground and thus highly visible to a significant portion of Nango's residents, businesses, and port traffic. It's also adjacent to a small public park. So it offers quite unique advantages and deserves further study. The aircraft would have to be barged to the site though (perhaps from Oita Airport), and thus transport would be more complex and expensive. But this site offers a more intimate connection to a small city than others and is thus quite interesting. In my view beautification of the site and surrounding area would enhance the popularity of the 747 home to the city's citizens - if well rendered the site and surrounding area might become quite popular as a place for individuals and families to relax, socialize, and in some measure recreate. My sense is that devealopment of the area would require an extended period of time (due primarily to ordinary civic budget limitations), but it has sound fundamentals and thus considerable potential.

Currently we face four fundamental challenges:

1.  We must illustrate all aspects of the project to the bureaucracy and all interested people in a manner which inspires confidence, excitement, and a clear sense of value - we must provide a compelling story which convinces almost everyone that the project will be executed very well and will be good for the community and its people, and thus deserves their support.

2.  A home site must be located and secured - we must find and purchase suitable land for the home. It must be barge accessible, or have a clear towing path to a barge accessible location. And ideally have offshore prevailing winds. Then we must design and build landing gear support pillars with a tsunami related tethering system, retractable access stairs and ramps, and electrical, water, and sewer service stanchions on the home site.

3.  An aircraft must be found, secured, and flown to an airport in Kyushu. Then its flammable or toxic fuel and hydraulic fluids must be well drained, its engines, removed by proper service procedure (unless old and thus of no flight value), and engine conduits sealed. (A nontoxic substitute fluid should replace the original hydraulic fluid.)

4.  We must devise transport and site preparation logistics which will be safe, efficient, economical, reliable, minimally inconvenient to others, and minimally damaging to the environment. And those logistics must inspire exceptionally high confidence in Airport officials. We must then execute the move flawlessly.

It's a big project. But we can do these things.

I had more than sufficient liquid assets to fund the project in late 2014, including contingency funding, but due to personal stock investment losses can no longer simply purchase an aircraft and land outright with cash. So partnerships will need to be created (or perhaps my investments will recover). In any case I won't allow any monetary waste. I'm highly confident that an efficiently and elegantly executed project will prove to be a superb use of everyone's money and trust - I believe all partners will be very happy with the benefits they derive from resources dedicated to this project.

I also believe very deeply in the fundamental value of the project. I strongly feel that it's worthy in many important respects, and might spawn a new global industry. And I believe I can articulate the many positive elements of the story well, and reasonably dispel concerns (demo Eigo de dake - futsu wa Nihongo de dekinai, sumimasen).

However, nothing about this project will be easy. But we all seek to associate with something special in life - connections with unique and exciting projects or adventures give us a profoundly necessary sense of accomplishment, dignity, and fulfillment - they enable us to breathe with a sense of pride. So as we struggle with tough challenges, we'll know in our hearts that the effort required to tenaciously forge them into successes will be well worth it.

But I don't mean to portray the project as more difficult than it actually is. Viewed in basic terms, we must simply fly a 747-400 to Miyazaki Kuukou, drain its fluids and remove its engines, tow it onto a barge, sail the barge to a home site, tow the aircraft off of the barge and onto pre-built landing gear pillars, and finally connect electricity, water, and sewer using the normal Boeing ramp connectors. While not easy, this is an achievable project. And in its simplest conceptual form, it's rather straightforward. Ultimately, this project offers more reward than challenge - it's a beneficially asymmetrical project. And I bring experience to this endeavor - in most significant respects, I've done this before.

The last Nippon 747-400 is evidently now in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA. It was intact at an earlier time, but scheduled to be destroyed for components and scrap metal. I engaged in initial negotiations to purchase it, but now suspect it necessary to abandon that aircraft, terribly sad though that is, due to timing, economics, carbon waste concerns, and model preference considerations. If so, I'll seek a 747-400ER from another country which can be retired with a last flight to Nippon. A promotional partnership with the original airline will be considered as well. Alternately I may be willing to over-paint the aircraft in JAL or ANA colors, in partnership with them of course, but with a vigorously open acknowledgment that the Nippon motif is not meant to suggest it was an ANA or JAL bird, but simply to honor the heritage of Nippon's profound historic connection with the very special 747.

Study of logistics for transport from Miyazaki Kuukou to a home site haven't yet begun, except to observe that Miyazaki Kuukou is adjacent to open water as required, and might have a usable barge docking abutment. We need to find a capable hauling vessel and study all aspects of towing a 747-400 onto it at Miyazaki Kuukou and off of it at a home site. My hope is that this effort will begin soon.

The aircraft's flammable and toxic fluids must be drained at Miyazaki Kuukou to insure that no significant toxic release from the aircraft could occur should it be lost at sea due to accident. It might also be necessary to inert the fuel tanks with nitrogen to eliminate the possibility of a fuel vapor explosion. The aircraft's engines must be removed by proper service procedure at Miyazaki Kuukou as well assuming they have significant economic value, which is likely. All engine related conduits must then be fully sealed.

A search for a suitable home site is under way. I believe it's necessary to consider sites which are rather distant from Miyazaki as acceptable due to the difficulty of finding a more intimate site. If the project captures people's imagination to the extent I think likely, they'll travel to it in significant measure, especially for special events. And an efficiently and elegantly executed project might spawn more, perhaps including one much closer to central Miyazaki. Design and construction of home site infrastructure should be relatively straightforward if water, sewer, and electrical service are available nearby. However, detailed infrastructure planning awaits location of a home site.

An important home site consideration is tsunami or typhoon flood resistance, for which I offer this initial appraisal: Consider the dimensioned drawing from Boeing in their 747-400 Airport Planning Specs document, page 27. The bottom of the fuselage stands 2.16 to 2.47 meters above the base of the landing gear tires. The cargo bay floor stands 2.73 to 3.13 meters above the base of the tires. The main cabin floor stands 4.75 to 5.2 meters above the base of the tires. The upper cabin floor stands 7.55 to 7.94 meters above the base of the tires. The maximum numbers will likely be utilized since the aircraft will contain comparatively very little fuel and, generally, minimal cargo and human load, and the landing gear struts will be inflated to near maximum extension. It might also be suitable to utilize very roughly half meter high pillars to support the landing gear. If so 50 cm should be added to all the figures above to give heights above ground level.

That suggests the floor of the upper deck would stand about 8.44 meters above the ground, a considerable height.

But the larger safety benefit will derive from the sealed nature of the aircraft itself. Jetliner cabins are sealed pressure cannisters - stated generally, the cabins of intact aircraft do not leak. In fact they do leak slightly if not actively pressurized. But only modestly, which suggests a suitable pump could reliably bail water faster than it would leak in, and thus keep the entire interior, including the cargo bays, almost completely dry. Or the cabin could be pressurized enough to force all seals to close as they do in ordinary flight. Or both.

A danger is that outside debris, if pushed by water currents with sufficient force, might puncture the fuselage, in which case leakage might become profuse. So in my view it would be wise to install a robust pump, one capable of bailing a rather substantial flow of water, plus a long endurance and well protected internal power source. A native axillary tank should be utilized for fuel (not the largest tanks, such as the wing tanks - they're unnecessarily large and important for flotation). It should be sealed and filled with fuel which is dedicated to an emergency generator which would serve multiple needs, including a robust submersible water pump located in a cargo bay slightly below floor level. Location of the emergency generator should be quite high, or in a highly protected but ventilated location which would reliably remain dry. In my estimation locating it high in the vertical tail might prove to be the most practical design.

The aircraft will be allowed some flexibility so that it can easily withstand even the most powerful earthquakes or some water born tsunami or typhoon debris, yielding somewhat to unusually strong forces to minimize damage. So each landing gear pillar should have a bowl shaped top to allow the aircraft to roam a bit during an earthquake or typhoon, and include an angled lever type tethering column which would allow the aircraft to rise on top of tsunami water and remain flexible for maximum waterborne debris damage resistance, but not drift away. The system would return the aircraft to its pillars as the water recedes. The electrical, water, and sewer service cables and conduits and their support stanchions must be both flexible and automatically stress detachable (this isn't a substantial challenge).

Dry earthquakes and typhoon winds are of minimal concern. The aircraft was superbly designed to withstand far greater forces of impact and winds. Flooding is the only significant danger, and this project will be designed to manage floods very reliably, providing a lifeboat refuge for local people.

Due to salt air exposure, corrosion management logistics are an important consideration. Certain especially vulnerable areas, such as the entire landing gear mechanisms and engine mount infrastructure, will require additional protective coatings which must be applied promptly after site arrival. And a land site with offshore prevailing winds is highly preferable. But in any case perfect corrosion prevention won't be possible - the aircraft will, sadly, have a limited life in a salt air environment. I need to study this issue further. However, I don't consider it a serious threat to the viability of this project at this time.

I'm more grateful than I can express for the support already building around this project. More must be generated of course, until we achieve a tangible sense of traction and momentum - until then we're still just grasping for a secure foothold. But I do feel hopeful - my sense is that we have a good start based upon an at least partially shared vision. I hope we can build upon that until we're in full motion, with nothing left but to actually push all the physical pieces into position.

If we execute this with elegance, skill, and economic efficiency, using a full bird (but sans engines), in my view the results will be truly inspiring. And may lead to some remarkable changes in humanity's utilization of these superb aerospace castles.

And therein lies opportunity for ambitious and vigorous people with exploratory hearts and clear, unimpeded vision...

Additional logistics notes are provided below. I encourage all who may become involved with this project to read and consider them too.

Logistics Notes Addendum:

The following notes are incomplete, but may nonetheless be helpful for anyone who may become involved with this project. As we progress notes like these will expand and evolve, and provide a basis for composition of task specific schedules and checklists:

  • A towing vehicle and a 747-400 rated nose gear towing bar must be available upon the aircraft's arrival at Miyazaki Kuukou, and for an extended time afterward to support barge loading and unloading operations. The operator of the vehicle must be experienced with 747-400 towing requirements and limitations.

  • Superb logistics must be devised to reliably manage towing obstacles associated with the barge and dock both at Miyazaki Kuukou and the home site. Strong gap filling blocks and steel or heavy wood panels will probably be required to lengthen and smooth elevation changes caused by such obstacles. Heavy winches may be required on the barge and also at the home site to provide enough towing force to pull the aircraft over panel smoothed obstacles. If the obstacles are substantial, strong cables and straps may have to be attached from the winches to the main landing gear because the nose gear isn't strong enough to pull the mass of the aircraft over significant obstacles. The cables and straps will have to be rigged very carefully to insure that the main landing gear isn't damaged when force is applied. Retention logistics must also be devised because the aircraft's brakes won't be functional. Forklift type tractors will be required to move steel panels or other heavy objects if utilized.

    We must also devise a means to manage the problem of large mass concentration on one side of the barge as the aircraft's towed from the tarmac onto the barge. This problem must be studied....

    Miyazaki Kuukou flight operations are of course crucial. Transfer of the aircraft to the barge must be conducted during the night shutdown period. A NOTAM will probably have to be published advising that the airport will be partially obstructed for an extended overnight period.

    There must be no risk of failing to complete the transfer to the barge well within the night shutdown period. Thus the transfer must be exceptionally well planned, including redundancies in both equipment and logistics to insure that no unforeseen difficulties can prevent the operation from either concluding or being successfully aborted by towing the aircraft back to a safe location before normal morning kuukou operations begin.

    Miyazaki Kuukou officials will be extremely strict with their requirements and expectations, and we must fully meet or exceed all of them with exceptionally high confidence - we must provide complete assurance that we will not impede normal Miyazaki Kuukou operations.

  • It may be preferable to operate the aircraft's navigation and anti-collision lights during transport operations as a safety measure. If so sufficient electrical power must be provided for them and the cabin dehydrators described below. Perhaps both the barge and the home site can provide enough electrical power. But if not a gasoline powered generator, perhaps located in a landing gear bay or inside an engine nacelle (because they're well protected but also well ventilated locations), might be necessary to provide electrical power. In addition a 60 Hz to 400 Hz power converter of sufficient capacity for the lights plus some ancillary loads must be provided since the aircraft's electrical systems require 400 Hz power. These are readily available through well established vendors, but must be ordered and installed in advance of course.

  • Standard Boeing ramp connectors for water, sewer, and external electrical power must be available at both Miyazaki Kuukou and the home site. They're almost certainly already available at Miyazaki Kuukou. And I personally own at least one of each of these (they're spares from my 727 home project) which can be used at the home site. However, my external power connector might be incompatible with the 747-400 - this will have to be investigated.

  • If not already accomplished, the aircraft's effluent tanks should be fully drained at Miyazaki Kuukou. The water tanks should also be drained to minimize total mass.

  • A balance appraisal of the aircraft in fully empty and dry condition must be reviewed to assure that it won't tip onto its tail during transport operations. If a tipping hazard seems possible, mass will have to be added forward of the main gear, or mass removed aft of the main gear. Passenger seats could be removed from aft areas for example. And if thought beneficial, they could be loaded into forward cargo bays. Even if confident of our balance studies, we must remain vigilantly aware of a tipping possibility throughout all operations.

    Otherwise, if the aircraft arrives with a full complement of passenger seats, we may consider removing many of them prior to transport to the home site in order to reduce the aircraft's mass. If so they can be transported separately by truck to whatever final destination seems appropriate. But optionally all seats may be left in the aircraft. (However, tentatively I plan to permanently retain only very roughly 25% or fewer of the seats.)

  • Several bottles of compressed nitrogen plus hose, valves, and connectors should be readily available for possible use of the native landing gear struts as pneumatic jacks to raise or lower the aircraft. There might be times when it's helpful to inflate the struts to raise the aircraft, then later deflate them to lower the aircraft. In the case of the main landing gear, it might be possible to inflate one pair and deflate the other pair, then install support blocks under the deflated pair, then inflate those while deflating the first pair, then insert support blocks under the first pair, then repeat the process in succession to rather easily raise the aircraft. This might prove helpful during the tow over the edge of the dock into the barge, and the reverse at the home site. It might also be the most efficient means to raise the aircraft as it's winched onto its home site support pillars.

  • A generous supply of disposable absorbent mats and dam barriers must be available on the aircraft at all times in case of an unexpected toxic fluid leak, even after all toxic fluids are thought to have been drained. It might be best to store them in the cargo bays, landing gear bays, or within the empty engine nacelles. They must be quickly accessible and deployable.

  • The interior air of the aircraft must be kept dry at all times. Generally an electrical dehydrator must operate often enough to maintain an internal humidity of 50% or less. Due to the size of the aircraft, at least two domestic class electrical dehydrators may have to operate continuously. They can drain via a small hose into any of the aircraft's lav or galley sinks or belly condensation drain valves. Electrical power will have to be available to serve the dehydrators during barge transport and upon arrival at the home site.

    These are just some initial logistics considerations. As work progresses, they'll become more thorough and refined. I eagerly welcome thoughts from everyone about any aspect of the project's logistics of course.

    "These results [his experiments] underscore the importance of shedding familiar ways of thinking in order to gain insight, Siegler contends, whether through personal intuitive force or by changing the structure of a problem." Robert S. Siegler of Carnegie Mellon University, as reported by Bruce Bower, Science News, 30 October 1999, Vol 156, No. 18, page 282.

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