A MAN forked out £2,000 to convert a Boeing 737 plane into the ultimate AirBnB – but he discovered a number of challenges along the way before realising his dream.
Entrepreneur and university lecturer Steven Northam, who admitted he knew nothing about planes, bought the 1960s Boeing 737-200 on eBay for £5,000 and has now converted it into a two-storey holiday let.
Visitors use airport boarding stairs to enter and it features the original seating, overhead lockers and there is even a flight simulator in the cockpit.
The front half of the 737 airliner sleeps four people and boasts a double bed in the cargo hold, and a hot tub in an old jet engine cowling.
Guests even get to use the original onboard toilet.
The plane cost him £15,000 to renovate over three months and he has named it the 'Marwell High Club' due to its proximity to Marwell Zoo.
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Mr Northam, 39, bought the 29ft-long, five-tonne front section from Chichester College, West Sussex, where aircrew had trained using the simulator.
He spent £3,000 transporting the 14 window-craft just 50 miles using a haulage firm and a crane to a patch of land near his home in Colden Common, near Winchester, Hampshire – on the same road as Marwell Zoo.
He then worked “fairly solidly” from 7.30am to 4pm on his project from July to September 2022 to make it a cosy place to stay – while retaining the original toilet, eight overhead lockers and three of the 30 passenger seats with trays and pouches underneath.
Despite all that effort, the married dad of two is currently applying to Winchester City Council for a green light to rent the plane out as an Airbnb.
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It has two single beds on the top floor and a double bedroom in the baggage hold, with a glass window to let light in from above.
Mr Northam, a Senior Lecturer in Business Management at Winchester University, found old passenger tickets – from Monastir, Tunisia to Lyon, France – tucked between the seats which revealed the Boeing belonged to the airline Tunisair – the national airline of Tunisia.
He believes it is around 54 years old and was one of the first to be built.
He said: “It’s a very old school plane. It’s one of the very early ones – it’s retro."
The initial Boeing 737 made its first flight in April 1967 and evolved through the years, with variants seating 85 to 215 passengers.
Mr Northam, who is also a business owner, admitted he knows “absolutely nothing” about aeroplanes, but found the craft while scrolling through eBay and thought it was an “interesting” opportunity for another venture.
He kept a lot of the original parts of the plane, using the passenger seats and signage inside but installed wifi, heating, a shower and an “entertainment hub”.
The emergency exit is in the kitchenette, but any guests hoping to use that for a speedy exit will find it's now sealed.
He said: “It was sat at Chichester College for ages, and they hadn’t used it in a while. It just popped up on eBay – I have no idea what happened to the rest of the plane.
“It seemed pretty cheap to me – it was a bargain for the scrap value alone.
“I got a special haulage firm to move it here with a massive crane – it must have been quite a sight on the motorway. I had a fear of it getting here and just rolling over.
“There are a few aeroplane-AirBnBs like this dotted around the world, but only a handful.
“It’s definitely not something you see every day.
"It’s a fun place to hang out in. Fun is the driver behind it all.
“I’m not a plane fanatic – all I know is that they fly. It’s just a fun project."
He added: “It’s my most ridiculous purchase to date. I've got an armoured truck to convert into a caravan next.
“I have this quirky desire to buy weird stuff.
“I have some aircraft-related films in the plane and cheesy aeroplane-themed cushions on the beds – all the stuff you’d expect."
The AirBnB has sleeping space for four people and a small kitchenette as well as the shower and toilet.
The flight simulator in the cockpit has a 49" curved 4k screen installed.
Mr Northam, a self-described “big kid”, also went the extra mile to install two 42" HD TVs and two Xbox Series S.
There is parking space for two cars, a gas BBQ and an outdoor seating area – including the hot tub and another jet engine cowling which can be used as a seat.
Mr Northam is no stranger to innovative projects taking off, as he installed a microchip into his own hand in 2017 to act as a key to his car, home and office – and now the Boeing too.
But there's also a manual pin pad for guests who would shy away from having cyborg modifications done for their stay.
Mr Northam and his primary school teacher wife Rebecca, 36, have two daughters – Poppy, six, and Lottie, four.
He said: “I tell them this isn’t normal.
"I have been contacted by people who are obsessed with this stuff, asking to come and see it.
“Parents of kids who love stuff like planes and trains ask me about it too.
"Inside, it’s a little like a caravan – it was quite large when it was empty with all the seats taken out.
“I get a buzz from seeing projects before and seeing them after – it's satisfying."
Due to the unusual shape, Mr Northam struggled to get furniture to fit.
He said: “The biggest challenge I had with it was that it’s quite an unusual shape so it was hard to find stuff that would fit in here properly.
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"I had to cut a lot of the wooden pieces to fit it.
“The shape of the fuselage is not quite circular, so that was a bit difficult to work with.”
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