The art of upcycling: how aviation sustainability and home décor can come together


The average life span of a commercial jet is about 25 years, and something like 12,000 of them and other aircraft are expected to reach their end of life in the next two decades. That’s an average of about 600 airplanes each year. What happens to all those planes when they are no longer economically viable and ready to come out of service?

The retirement of commercial jets is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. However, it also presents an opportunity for the aviation industry to reduce waste and lower costs through the reuse and recycling of valuable parts. In recent years, the practice of upcycling airplane parts has gained significant momentum. This innovative approach involves repurposing old materials to create unique and innovative products.

Upcycling is a sustainable and eco-friendly way to reduce waste and minimise the environmental impact of discarded materials. By transforming airplane parts into new and exciting items, we can breathe new life into these materials and give them a second chance to shine.

Fuselages can become conference tables. Cowlings, the metal coverings of an engine, can be made into beds. Wings turned into dramatic, one-of-a-kind corporate executive desks. Windows – transformed into mirrors. From furniture to home decor, upcycling airplane parts has opened up a world of possibilities for creative designers and artisans. The unique shapes and textures of these materials lend themselves to a wide range of applications, making them a popular choice for those looking to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

Airbus BizLab has worked with A Piece of Sky and design professionals – including industrial designers, artists, craftspeople, design consultants and manufacturers – to create furniture made from aviation parts

Recycling aircraft parts has been a long-standing practice in the aviation industry. For years, parts have been refurbished to fit on other aircraft or repurposed to create different products, such as circuit boards. This has been the industry standard, as reported by the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA). In fact, AFRA estimates that approximately 80% to 85% of aircraft parts are recycled when an aircraft reaches retirement.

Despite this, the aviation industry is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to reuse aircraft parts. As sustainability becomes an increasingly important issue, alternative ideas for repurposing these parts are becoming more commonplace.

From the sky to your living room: turning aircraft parts into designer furniture

Airbus and Lufthansa are leading the way in transforming retired aircraft parts into stylish homeware collections. The project, called ‘A Piece of Sky’, was initiated by Airbus and its Airbus BizLab programme, and has resulted in the creation of armchairs, coffee tables and lamps made from cabin windows and test flight storage data modules. The company has even produced Airbus-branded surfboards made from recycled carbon.

Lufthansa has also joined the trend, launching its Upcycling Collection 2.0 in October 2020. This range of homeware products includes furniture, sculptures and accessories made from retired aircraft parts, such as a coffee table created from landing flaps and a wall bar made from an airplane window mounted onto a wooden box.

These innovative collections not only breathe new life into retired aircraft parts, but also offer a unique and sustainable way to decorate modern living spaces. By repurposing these materials, Airbus and Lufthansa are setting an example for other companies to follow in creating environmentally friendly and stylish homeware collections.

An aircraft porthole window is given new life as the Oxygen lamp, created by A Piece of Sky for its collection of furniture derived from end-of-life aircraft parts

Up in the air: aviation-themed accommodations

A converted Boeing 747, located at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, is ideal for aviation enthusiasts or those looking for something a little bit different. This aviation-themed hotel offers the chance to sleep in a jet without leaving the ground.

The real highlight of this hotel is the Cockpit Suite, which features a fully preserved flight deck, complete with all the original instruments. You can live out your pilot dreams and feel like you’re flying the plane yourself!

A home from home for holidaying aviation enthusiasts: Jumbostay’s converted Boeing 747 at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm.

From planes to trees: christmas decorations with aircraft components

With a variety of parts available, including washers, fasteners, rivets, hinges, grommets and seals, repurposing them is a breeze. All you need is some ribbon or coloured string to tie them onto your tree.

So why not give it a try and see how your tree can take flight with a touch of aviation-inspired flair.

Jet-set selfies: get ready for the ultimate photoshoot experience

Have you ever dreamed of soaring through the skies on a private jet? While it may not be a reality for most of us, there’s a fun and lighthearted way to experience the high life. Head over to the Selfie Factory at the O2 in London, where you can indulge in a day of make-believe and capture some amazing photos.

The Selfie Factory boasts a range of themed sets, including a luxurious private jet interior. You can snap as many photos as you like.

Sip on sustainability: drinks bars made from aircraft scrap

Raise a glass to your very own custom-built bar that’s been crafted out of upcycled aircraft fuselage.

Upcycling can transform scrap into stunning creations. In addition to traditional recycling, a new and exciting market is emerging – one that breathes new life into old parts and transforms them into stunning creations: upcycling. The possibilities are endless, and creativity knows no bounds. Entire aircraft are being converted into luxurious apartments or hotels, while smaller ‘aeropods’ made from fuselage sections are being used as charming conservatories or gazebos. Various companies are also offering unique furniture, as well as stylish bags and accessories crafted from seat covers and life jackets.

Upcycling is a fantastic way to reduce waste and give old materials a new lease on life. It’s a sustainable and eco-friendly approach that not only benefits the environment but also allows for the creation of one-of-a-kind pieces that are both functional and beautiful. So, whether you’re looking to add a touch of aviation-inspired style to your home or office, or simply want to do your part for the planet, upcycling is the way to go.

Looking down on AeroTime Hub’s office building in Vilnius Lithuania, which has a full-size chrome business jet in the atrium

AeroTime Hub, part of Avia Solutions Group, went big with incorporating end-of-lie aviation into its office building in Vilnius Lithuania is an aircraft parts locator in the aviation aftermarket. With a worldwide aircraft parts database on its marketplace for both commercial and military aircraft, it offers tools for aircraft parts procurement and exploration via the broad aviation marketplace it manages.

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