Gerald Allin holds an airplane actuator, which he says will eventually be wall lampstands with an LED spotlight which could be used for reading. (Photo: Cory Bilyea)
— By Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
WINGHAM – An old airplane, some spare time, and a great imagination are some of the reasons Gerald Allin, owner of Allin Aircraft Maintenance, has created some unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and outdoor items.
Allin does aircraft maintenance for a living. He recently purchased a house beside the Wingham Airport that has enough room for a permanent shop where he can work, which has given him more time to concentrate on this exciting hobby.
“I do aircraft maintenance, modifications, repairs, restorations, anything based with aircraft. So, engine propeller hydraulics pneumatics, electrical navigation interior sheet metal, you name it,” Allin said.
He said that the interest in recycling an old airplane into usable items for resale wasn’t something he planned to do; it just happened.
“That kind of just fell into my lap,” Allin said. “I got asked if I was interested in scrapping a big plane that was at the end of its life and sell it for parts. Unfortunately, COVID happened and no one was buying these old airplanes anymore, because they were old everyone was looking for more environmentally friendly, more efficient airframes. Since there’s no market for any of these components, or parts, I ended up repurposing them for furniture or anything else, but it’s more of a hobby, doing that, than a full-time job.”
While the market for such unique items is small, it is there, according to Allin.
“It’s a very niché market, a very limited market. People are interested but they always like looking at them,” he said.
“But you know, there’s a lot of time that goes into polishing and all fabricating and stuff like that. So, there’s not too many it’s a very small market small world of people that actually truly enjoy these things.”
Older planes, like the one Allin is using, are made of aluminum which can be reused, but newer planes are made out of a lighter material that ends up in the garbage at the end of its life cycle, Allin said.
“The aircraft now are made of composites, it’s not a thermoplastic, but a thermoset. There’s two different types of composites, ones that can be reshaped and reformed, which is a thermal plastic… or a thermoset once it once it’s cured and hardens, you can’t change the shape,” said Allin.
“With carbon fibers, all the new ones like the Boeing 787, it’s all carbon fiber fuselage. And none of that’s recyclable, the entire fuselage is garbage. And with these older planes, every single piece of those planes is aluminum, the ones that I’ve recycled. So, if I don’t feel like I can make something out of it, I can bring it down and get it melted, or bring it to the scrapyard.
“But simply the reason that you want a carbon fiber is because this was way less than a pound. If you compare that to the previous generation aircraft that was made 10 years prior, they save about a ton and a half of fuel an hour, just with the new engines,” Allin explained.
The newer planes, like the Max, are still made with aluminum, “because if you change too much, then it becomes a different aircraft that needs to reapply for certification…so, they decided to change the engines and the wingtips and a couple of places where they made it more aerodynamic.
“But that airplane saves – and those same engines are on the Airbus – but they average between one and a half to 1.7 tons of savings in fuel an hour.”
Standing among hundreds of dials, gadgets, and disassembled airplane parts, Allin talked about his future projects with the remaining pieces that include some pretty interesting ideas, including a conference table made of part of the wing.
“What I plan on doing is taking the flight control, which is a part of the wing. There’s big panels on the bottom, I’m going to remove the panels so you can see all the internal workings and structure of the of the wing. And then I’m going to put a glass top on top of that and make some legs. I also have some doors that I’m making into coffee tables or desks and stuff like that. I have a couple actuators I’m going to make into lampstands.”
Allin has ideas for almost every part of the plane he is working on, including the tires, which will become unique, one-of-a-kind coffee and end tables.
The possibilities are endless if imagination and innovation come together. Allin Aircraft Maintenance is using both to combat waste and provide alternatives for reusing old airplanes in a productive and unique niche that will last for years.