An interesting side effect of the coronaviruspandemic and resulting lockdowns is the significant spike in business occurring over the internet. This transition has included a heavy reliance upon video calls in an attempt to conduct “business as usual” from home to which we are now digitally viewing colleagues’ and clients’ backyards, kitchens, living rooms and home offices.
With this extra attention upon your home space, perhaps you are looking to freshen or add aviation décor – or maybe you are just in need of holiday gift ideas. We have collected a few unique options for you to consider.
Today, you can find several companies bringing scrap aircraft parts back to life as functional pieces of furniture. These one-of-a-kind pieces are commonly showcased in restaurants, homes and FBOs.
Phighter Images is one example of those upcycling custom-made aviation furniture, gifts and history display items. Kurt Eldrup is the company’s founder and sole craftsman. As a veteran, many of Eldrup’s pieces are constructed out of military aircraft pieces, but his work has also included pieces from twin and turbine general aviation aircraft.
Eldrup has been making av-centric furniture pieces for decades, something he started several years after becoming an A&P mechanic. Through his education in aviation maintenance education and experiences, he has a strong penchant for what must be done to an upcycled part for it to be structurally sound as well as visually appealing.
A key portion of his business comes from tables and desks, many of which are constructed out of cloth-covered wood wing pieces. A stickler for detail, Eldrup pays special attention to ensure that the finished product maintains its aircraft roots while being both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Everyone knows that pictures are worth a thousand words, with drawings and photos being one of the most common touches in an aviation-themed space.
A quick visit to the International Society of Aviation Photographers’ website (aviationphoto.org), and you can view a large list of ISAP members (and their galleries) who capture aviation moments on film. Larry Grace, the organization’s president and avid photographer, notes that creativity plays a heavy role in the digital artist’s success. “A good photographer has to have an idea for the images they wish to create, or it’s just a photo.”
Scrolling through the organization’s member portfolios, the amount of practice, preparation, shooting and processing is apparent. Whether it’s a Piaggio Avanti rotating off a runway with a mountainous background, or two TBM’s flying formation over tropical waters, photographers showcase aircraft in seemingly limitless fashion.
Or maybe you want a commissioned piece of your Epic E1000 in formation with Blue Angel 7 and a Cessna 150. Or a recreation of a tattered and worn Polaroid from your first solo flight. Member artists of the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA) can take seemingly nothing, such as pen and paper, and turn it into just about anything. In a New York Times interview, aviation artist Keith Ferris once noted the advantages that artists have, saying, “I can take nothing and turn it into something as opposed to
Another wall décor option comes from Tin Tail Numbers, which produces signs replicating airplane tail numbers. The company requires only a picture of your airplane, and they send a “piece” of your airplane in return. Mitch Osowski, owner of a sheet metal fabrication company, created the product to help one of his friends remember his aircraft that did not survive after making an emergency landing.
Measuring 16 by 30 inches, the curved piece sits slightly raised from the wall and is typically constructed out of metal overlain with high-quality vinyl (but can also be made from composite to match Cirrus and other aircraft built from that material). The sign is also built with hand-punched rivets if applicable, with “extreme attention to detail used to match the exact paint scheme, colors and font.” The company has even duplicated weathering and damage on the product to match that on the aircraft itself.
METARmaps presents a unique way of showcasing airport-related weather data and the cleanness of a standard navigation map. This “real-time weather wall art” allows one to instantly, without opening an app or the internet, see current conditions at airports (including the ability to denote favorites and home bases) across a state, region or the entire country.
Richard Freilich, the product’s creator, notes that the map’s data is controlled by a tiny WIFI-connected computer located within the map’s one-inch thick frame. The individually addressable LEDs, which sit atop the airport identifiers, light up in the same color as a METAR would indicate (green for VFR, yellow for MVFR, red for IFR, and magenta for LIFR).
Freilich notes that the full United States map is the most popular, followed by the East and West Coast segment maps. Other available options range from The Virginias to Alaska to the Gulf Coast. METARmaps can also meet customers’ requirements for a custom range and airport inclusion and include a logo on the map itself.
Certainly, a common centerpiece found in an aviation enthusiast’s office is an aircraft model or models. To make it more personalized, pilots can customize their current aircraft or replicate their first airplane, favorite trainer or even their dream bird.
Aviator Gear, which has been making custom-built models for more than 15 years, constructs an array of aircraft out of mahogany. Cory Bower, the company’s director of sales, described the one-off build process that occurs on each model:
Customers first search the company’s selection of past-built models or submit their own aircraft type. From there, the team takes all requested details and creates a custom order form. If all is correct, the 10-week production process begins. After completion, photos of the model are sent to the customer for approval. The typical model size is 16 to 18 inches long with markings and colors based exactly upon customer-provided pictures. Larger models are also available upon request.
Factory Direct Models (FDM) also hand builds custom-made models, from desktop to full-size. The company references customers’ aircraft photos throughout the build process so that the model is delivered with an identical paint scheme, logos, registration number, antennas and “all the details that make your airplane unique.”
A popular add-on option is a fully customized interior which replaces the opaque window outline with a transparent plastic material. This allows one to view their replica seats, instrument panel and other interior details from headsets to fire extinguishers. Most custom builds take about 14 to 16 weeks for delivery, but FDM notes to ask about rush delivery options.
FDM has been pilot-owned and operated for more than 25 years and currently supplies models to 50-plus aircraft manufacturers and hundreds of other aerospace companies in 68 countries. You can find a showroom of their custom model options at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA) or view hundreds of photos on their website.
So, whether you are tackling quarantine projects or simply wish to redecorate your home office with fresh pieces, now is a great time to showcase your aviation identity. Perhaps the new pieces will become a conversation point during your next video call.
Note: Neither the author nor anyone affiliated with Twin & Turbine was compensated by any of the companies or individuals noted in this article.