In this modern, inclusive society should 'man cave' actually be a thing? We're equally happy with a 'she shed' and, however you identify, if you like upcycled aircraft parts, you're good with us!
Next week, we're off to exhibit at the Mancave Expo UK at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre. We hadn't planned to be out and about any more this year, but our latest project is, arguably, the ultimate mancave in the making, so we thought we'd give it whirl...literally.
We have teamed up with Specialist Aviation Services at Gloucestershire Airport to save a retired MD902 Explorer helicopter from landfill.
We’ve been working with Specialist Aviation for several years, disposing of their unserviceable and scrap components. These must be rigorously controlled to ensure that unserviceable spares cannot re-enter the supply chain, and have to be damaged or disfigured to prevent reuse in aircraft. We do, however, find use for some of these items and repurpose them as artwork, functional items and furniture, which is, obviously, the essence of our business.
During a routine visit to collect what, it transpired, was the final batch of ancillaries and components from a particular MD902 Explorer helicopter, we spotted the cabin pod and tail boom cocooned in plastic in the hangar. Enquiries confirmed that these were about to transported off site for final scrapping.
There is very little scope to reuse the composite materials that make the shell and major components, but we immediately saw there was potential to repurpose the entire helicopter for an altogether different use and we set about making a plan. With the support of Specialist Aviation, all of the necessary regulatory and legal hoops were jumped through and, a few weeks later, the aircraft shell was back in our workshop.
The airframe was built in 2001 and flew for almost 4000 hours before its retirement in 2017. It served across the globe in a variety of roles: as a police helicopter in Suffolk County in New York, as an air ambulance in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UK, and with the General Lighthouse Authority charity, Trinity House, in support of their operations around the UK coastline.
The MD Explorer features the NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) system, which uses fan driven air from its tail boom to counteract the torque of the main rotor, improving safety and reducing noise.
Rebecca Borresen, Head of Operations Projects and Deputy COO at Specialist Aviation Services said: “We are really excited to see this much loved aircraft being given a new lease in life and saved from landfill, after all other serviceable parts and recyclable materials had been removed. This approach supports the aims of our Sustainability Programme and ISO 14001 certification and we are really pleased to support Aerotiques in this project.”
With its engines, gearbox and non-essential components removed, the aircraft is remarkably lightweight and easily transportable. We think it lends itself well to a unique garden office, meeting space or glamping pod application but it's very much a blank canvas at this stage. We've been investigating seats, beds, air conditioning, heating, cooking, refrigerators and home cinemas.
Thus far, we've stripped any non-essential components, several miles (and about 70kg!) of wiring and cabling, modified and lowered the passenger cabin floor to allow standing room inside. We've refitted the right hand pilot seat controls and instruments. We've modified the rear skid braces and are currently working on the rotor head to allow it to turn. We do have set of rotors, however, we'll be using feather flags initially and we've improvised some of the instrumentation, but it should certainly turn a few heads at the Expo next week. We're very much looking forward to completing its transformation.
Of the 146 airframes produced, only one example is currently preserved and we believe just over 100 remain in operational service.
If you'd like the ultimate mancave in your garden or workplace, get in touch - we'd love to work with you on what will definitely be a unique talking point! We estimate around 600kg have been saved from landfill and this emergency service workhorse will enjoy something of a quieter life in its retirement.