Most creative ways to recycle a plane

Story highlights

Visionaries have been making furniture, hotels and private homes from decommissioned airplanes

Airplane trolleys can be converted into wine bars or foosball tables

Plane-turned-boat Cosmic Muffin can reach speeds up to 13 knots

CNN  — 

Images of the latest gleaming aircraft models regularly pepper websites (including this one), but where do all of those dead airplanes go?

The numbers are huge: approximately 12,000 aircraft are set to be decommissioned by 2020.

In addition, 2,000-3,000 planes are estimated to have been abandoned around the world (primarily in developing countries) according to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA).

As their aircraft near the end of their service lives, aircraft owners must find ways for dealing with retirees.

For aircraft at that awkward stage when they’re no longer safe to fly but still too sturdy to demolish, there are storage facilities like that at Marana Aerospace Solutions in Arizona or the Mohave Air and Space Port in California.

The problem is, they’re only temporary.

Too dangerous to fly, too strong to die. Unfortunately they can't all be luxury hotel suites.

While some parts – especially engine parts – practically sell themselves and find new homes on new planes, other airplane parts can get more innovative second lives, such as the ones featured below.


Futuristic rivets, elegant curves, gleaming surfaces and the ability to withstand extremes … it’s easy to see why furniture designers would be intrigued by the potential of decommissioned airplanes.

The widely acknowledged leader in this niche industry is MotoArt, a California-based company that’s been designing sleek, sexy beds, tables, chairs and sculptures constructed from deconstructed airplanes for more than a decade.

“We have over 100 designs and have produced thousands of pieces that you find nearly in all parts of the world, from the Dubai Burj, to the Sears Tower, and even as far away as the North Pole,” says managing partner Dave Hall.

Read: How low-cost carriers are changing the world’s largest aviation market

Nothing to jazz up a waiting room like some cool airplane art. The kind you can sit on.

Germany’s bordbar, the first company that thought to revamp airline trolleys as multifunctional and decorative furniture, customizes trolleys.

This can mean incorporating butterfly patterns or corporate logos, transforming the trolley into a filing cabinet or mini-bar, complete with shelves, glass front and LED lighting.

“We sell our products around the globe, with approximately 220 wholesalers,” says bordbar co-founder Valentin Hartmann. “There is definitely a market for trolleys.”

Bordbar trolleys start at €979 ($1,300).

German company Skypak also specializes in glammed-up airline trolleys, selling luxurious, attention-grabbing designs like the Pure Gold trolley, decorated with 24-carat gold leaf.

The company’s star product, the Luxury Crystal trolley, is covered in 82,000 Swarovski crystals.

Skypak’s trolleys start at €1,380 ($1,833), but luxury trolleys go for anywhere from €3,900 ($5,180) to €27,800 ($37,000).

Floor and wall tile

Aircraft aluminum isn’t like the aluminum most of us know.

Because of the alloys that make it sturdy and fit for flight, it’s also difficult to recycle.

Bio-Luminum, a building material from U.S.-based Coverings ETC, is made from completely recycled aircraft aluminum.

“The energy used in recycling aluminum is 5% of what would be used during the first generation of aluminum production,” says Jennifer Ryan, business development director for Coverings ETC.

The best part is that Bio-Luminum is itself recyclable.

“So if you ever desire to change your decor, Bio-Luminum can be removed and used over again,” says Ryan. “It is truly a cradle-to-cradle product.”


Planeboats, or “flying boats,” are rare (the Japanese Imperial Navy developed a fleet during World War II), but a former 1939 Boeing 307 Stratoliner converted into a boat that can reach up to 13 knots occupies a remarkable place in recycled plane lore.

The boat has an unforgettable name – the Cosmic Muffin – as well as an equally interesting history.