Anyone curious about airplanes from mechanics to aspiring pilots can now visit an aviation social scene that is housed in a salvaged, decommissioned jet at the Houma-Terrebonne airport, and it’s all thanks to an air traffic controller who had a vision and renovated said airplane, says an article by Houma Today.
Andy Cook has been a registered Air Traffic Controller with the Federal Aviation Administration since 1988, and after he noticed a Boeing 727 collecting dust in a nearby South Louisiana shipyard for two consecutive years, he decided that it was time to act. Subsequently, Cook struck a deal with the owner to not only move the commercial jet to the Houma-Terrebonne airport but to also renovate and transform it into a communal aviation den. The end result, a now renovated airplane unlike anything you may have ever seen.
What now stands on the green fields beside the tarmac of HUM, or the Houma-Terrebonne Airport and Industrial Park is a completely “decked-out” Boeing 727 cockpit and first-class cabin that is lined inside and out with New Orleans Hornets iconography and memorabilia as well as other impressive amenities. The former Crescent City NBA team used to use the jet as a charter plane as did the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) and the Charlotte Hornets.
After Cook noticed that the jet was exposed to the elements for two years, he had some idea of the amount of work and effort he would have to contribute in order to turn this “decommissioned scrap” into the impressive piece of Louisiana history that it is today. He told reporters: “I can’t tell you how many muddy buckets of water I’ve dragged out of this thing,” Cook said. “It was a tetanus shot waiting to happen.”
After the water was dispelled from the aircraft, Cook put in dozens of additional man-hours to properly deep-clean, refurbish, and revamp the 727 with new carpeting, air conditioning, speakers, and aesthetic Hornets memorabilia lining the interior as well as a logo for the NBA team wrapping the 40-foot perimeter of the jet itself. Cook even took it a step forward by positioning the plane so that it’s west-facing, giving anyone seated in the cockpit an impressive view of the sunset.
As a result and testament to his hard work, the renovated airplane has started to attract its own brand of visitors. For instance Darryl Christen, a Houma attorney also owns and operates a local flight school, and he will have his enrolled flight students study in the first-class cabin to see the infrastructure and engineering up close. Similarly, Neil Thibodaux, a local pilot and chef known by the Houma community as “Chef Nino” took advantage of the opportunity to see the aviation engineering feat up close, as he had never previously gotten the chance to see a cross-section, or industrially separated, passenger aircraft before.
Thibodeaux said of Cook’s project, “Andy is so brilliant,” Thibodaux said. “It’s a gathering place for aviators and airplane mechanics. My favorite part is the history that this plane brings.” Andy Cook hopes that the plane will inspire any interested parties to learn more about aviation, and in the spirit of that optimistic outlook, Cook leaves the plane unlocked and fully accessible to anyone willing to come by, as long as they have access past the airfield’s gate, saying, “I’ll keep it open and unlocked until something goes missing.”
The Boeing 727 aircraft was initially designed to service smaller airport runways and has only grown since its humble 1960’s beginnings to later become one of the greatest commercial jets in history by 1984. Today, only 40 models of the historic aircraft are still flying around the world, but whether they’re airborne or grounded, it’s safe to assume that none are as impressively striking as the partial model that decorates the lawn of the Houma-Terrebonne Airport.
As it stands today, the once massively popular aircraft that is the Boeing 727 only has 40 still operating and flying in the skies today
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