Three retired air cargo aircraft are having a second life in Alaska. Retired pilot Jon Kotwicki founded FLY8MA, a flight school in Big Lake, Alaska, and decided to embark on the adventure to transform three discarded aircraft into spaces where students could stay, or even advertise them on Airbnb for potential lodgers.
After a few months of search, Kotwicki found a Boeing 727, a Douglas DC-6, and a DC-9. According to Simple Flying magazine, the price tag was somewhere between $600,000 and $800,000, renovation costs included. He was not daunted by the investment required, on the contrary, he saw the immense potential the transformed airplanes could have.
As with many projects, it’s not only the acquisition that requires capital. There’s also the logistics of transporting such big structures. Kotwicki wound up spending close $200,000 in ensuring road closures, obtaining cranes, escort vehicles, and specialized tools for proper disassembly and re-assembly, as reported by Simple Flying magazine.
Flying a Cessna was my first love of aviation. I want as many people as possible to have that same experience.Jon Kotwicki
The three airplanes are undergoing extensive refurbishing that will turn them into real living spaces. The Boeing-727, for instance, will be furnished dorm with a private entrance It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024. The DC-6 will be ready for accommodation sometime this summer, while the DC-9 is expected to be available at the end of this year, as reported by Simple Flying Magazine. Overnight Airbnb stays are estimated to range from $200 to $700.
Kotwicki set off in the summer of 2019 on a trip flying a Cessna from Alaska to Florida, and from there all 48 remaining states. The trip lated two years, and was well documented on the FLY8MA Vlog Channel and Flight Instruction Channel. The purpose of the trip was to attract more interest to GA, and promote aviation safety with “real-world” flying experiences that occur on long cross country flights.
In August of 2018, Jon left his job as an airline pilot to return to being a CFI and seize this opportunity to promote GA. “Flying a Cessna was my first love of aviation, it was my starting point in this amazing community,” said Kotwicki. “I want as many people as possible to have that same experience I was lucky enough to have.”
FLY8MA was founded by Jon Kotwicki in early 2018 as his way of giving back to GA. After Jon left instructing for the airlines, there were so many students he was not able to fly with and help achieve their goals in person, that he decided to create a website that would offer a free private pilot ground school giving students the best foundation possible for success in flight training.
After spending months learning how to write code, and over a hundred hours flying with GoPros and countless more editing footage, FLY8MA was born. Today FLY8MA has thousands of students enrolled in Private Pilot, Instrument, and Commercial Pilot ground schools, as well as many other courses on the site. Kotwicki is a CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP, AGI, and the rest of the alphabet. He started instructing for fun part-time to be able to give back to the GA community after earning his Commercial and CFI back in 2013.