Monday 31 October 2022

Air Park to transform grounded OzJet into 'luxury' accommodation

A family-owned air park in the West Australian Wheatbelt will soon be offering the "ultimate" luxury stay when accommodation is built from a grounded Boeing 737-200 jet.

White Gum Air Park in the Shire of York is one of just four Australian winners of a global competition that will see them receive $US100,000 ($158,000) towards their transformation project.

The site, located 122 kilometres east of Perth is home to two Boeing jets formerly owned by airline Ozjet, which collapsed after just 14 weeks in 2006.
The aircraft sat idle at Perth Airport for nearly a decade before they were disassembled and brought to White Gum on semi-trailers — one in 2019 and the other in 2021.

The air park owners, Andrew and Mary Cotterell, then reassembled the aircraft along with a team of volunteers and have since been offering tours of the planes as a tourist attraction.

Mr Cotterell has a background in mechanics and said the building process was a worthy challenge.

"It's not a small item you can just pull the bolts out and let it fall over. You need to be careful and do it right so you can get it back together again," he said.

The park also offers training flights and casual accommodation, but the Cotterells thought one of their grounded jets could be put to better use.

They applied for funding through a competition run by US company Airbnb, which was offering a prize pool of $US10 million to 100 "quirky" creations across the globe.

Ms Cotterell said the project would not have happened this quickly without the funding.

"It's amazing. It will be a game changer for us and our little community at White Gum. It's pretty special," she said.

"The Airbnb money will bring this project forward 10 years on what we would have been able to afford to have it up and running by August."

Design blueprints show the plane's cabin being split into two separate sleeping quarters, with ensuite bathrooms and lounge areas at either end.

The cockpit will remain untouched and protected by flexi-glass, which Ms Cotterell said would provide guests with an inside look at the plane's technology.

"When I was younger if you batted your eyelids at the cabin crew they'd take you up to say hi to the pilot — but that doesn't happen anymore," she said.

"Post-911 it's very hard for people to see the flight deck ... we can actually open the door and show people."

Mr Cotterell said the funding was a reward for months of planning and pitching.The air park also offers training flights and a place for leisure aircraft to stay overnight.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Sam McManus)

"Trying to sort out what goes where and what fits best, how to get the services, the septics, the water, the electricity to the aircraft all plays a part into how it's laid out," he said.

"I sometimes kick myself, 'What were you thinking?'.

"But it's been so gradual; it was never a plan from the start to do what we've done."

The rooms would be open to guests from August next year, but Mr Cotterell had some seemingly obvious advice for those hoping to book a stay.

"If you hate aviation, we're not the place for you," he said.

OZJET BOEING 737-229 VH-OZU (MSN 21176)

OzJet Airlines Pty Ltd, founded in 2005 with 4 Boeing 737-200 aircraft, was a scheduled and charter airline with its head office in Tullamarine, Melbourne, operating within Australasia from Melbourne Airport, Sydney Airport, and Perth Airport. In 2008 the airline was sold to HeavyLift Cargo Airlines, and on the 20th of May 2009 it suspended its last remaining operations from Perth. In June 2009, OzJet was purchased by the Strategic group. With the insolvency of Strategic Airlines on the 17th of February 2012, OzJet also ceased all operations and went as part of the mother company into administration.

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