As mighty Boeing 747s arrive for storage and retirement at Cotswold Airport, a small business at the county’s other aerodrome is helping them to live on, albeit in a very different guise.
The aircraft have been stripped, polished and converted into clocks and wall art for a growing list of clients around the world by a company based in Gloucestershire Airport.
Staverton-based Aerotiques Ltd. was set up in 2017 by former Gloucestershire Airport Operations Director, Darren Lewington, 50, and Daren Hales, 51, who worked on the Airport’s maintenance team.
The pair combined their passion for aviation and flair for design to set up the business, which specialises in ‘upcycling’ scrapped aircraft parts to make functional items, furniture and feature pieces of aviation art.
They’ve also made key rings, wine racks and even cocktail shakers from other 747 components and offcuts.
The retirement of the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s Jumbo Jet fleets have given the business a boost in these challenging times for the aviation industry.
The pair have acquired scrapped sections of fuselage and other components from four of the 747s that have already met the scrapman’s axe.
Swipe across the gallery below to see the company’s products and how they are made:
Darren Lewington said: “The 747 is an icon of engineering, which transformed air travel as we know it. Along with the Spitfire and Concorde, it’s one of those instantly recognisable shapes that everyone knows but even we’ve been bowled over by the love and affection her former crew, passengers and enthusiasts have for her.
“We’ve shipped throughout the UK, to the US, Europe and the Far East, echoing the millions of air miles these aircraft have flown.
“Transforming a piece of metal usually found at 35,000ft and 500mph into a clock, sedately telling the time on your wall is certainly something a bit different!
“We cut ‘raw’ sections of fuselage from the aircraft immediately prior to the bulldozers moving in and, back at our workshop, trim them to size, strip the paint and polish the aluminium to a mirror finish.
“We then laser etch or sandblast a personalised message or clock face onto the acrylic window pane and fit a clock mechanism, converting the chunk of aeroplane that millions of people will have flown in to something beautiful for the home or office.
“It’s been fascinating to hear the memories and anecdotes from our clients about their time on the Jumbo. We’ve heard recollections of first and last flights, flights and trips where passengers and crew alike have met and even married. The fact that we can reunite them with a piece of their ‘special’ aircraft is the icing on the cake.”
With so many aircraft grounded by the pandemic, the demand shows no sign of slowing down and the team are already preparing for their next projects, with parts of the first British Airways Boeing 777 having also been acquired.
Mr Lewington added: “Covid meant we lost several key orders when clients lost their jobs, but the hastening of the 747 retirement gave us an important lifeline.
“In addition to the airliners, we also have commissions pending from former RAF pilots, looking to obtain mementos from aircraft such as the Hawk and Tornado aircraft but simple projects, such as key rings and keepsakes are just as important to us.”
“Upcycling and reusing raw material is an environmentally friendly choice for furniture and gifts and, in a County with such a rich aviation heritage, we’re proud to be doing our bit to preserve these little pieces of aviation history.”
“Aircraft components are invariably sleek, aerodynamic and made from high quality materials. Transforming them into different things takes imagination and time, but it’s fun and rewarding.”