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I've been playing with the idea of someday modifying a small airplane to create a sort of flying RV/Camper. The passenger seats would be removed and replaced with a flat, raised surface that would run along the wall to be used for a bed, or a desk during the day. A small chair and portable toilet could be secured below that, with room for food, etc.

Would this be usable in practice? Can a certified aircraft be modified in this way? Is it allowed to sleep in a plane on the apron overnight? Is external power ever available near airplane tie-downs? Etc.

I'm mostly asking about the U.S., but I'd be curious about other countries as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ Too bad the name "Air Camper" is already taken. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ You need to define “small”. Most airplanes that you can actually stand up in don’t meet the common definition of small... $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2020 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I wasn't thinking of anything big enough to stand up in. Maybe a Cessna 310 or something. Like people that live out of vans. Something you can get around in, sleep in, do some remote work in (why I care about a desk). Nothing crazy. My intention would be to spend most of my time at the location outside the plane. $\endgroup$
    – notloc
    Aug 2, 2020 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ I guess you're not talking about something like this, though it would be more roomy: buzznicked.com/planes-turned-into-homes $\endgroup$
    – davidbak
    Oct 7, 2022 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ Richard Bach had a short story (maybe in book "A Gift Of Wings") called "the 100,000$ sleeping bag") (don't remember actual number) about how uncomfortable seats in Cessna Skymaster were to sleep in, with the plane on the ramp at the airport... $\endgroup$ Nov 18, 2022 at 17:28

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Sure, it actually is more common than you might think. While the general notion of a private plane is a small sleek jet to dart about in, plenty of wealthily people own larger jets equipped as you describe. Nick Gleis is somewhat famous for photographing the biggest of the biggest private jets and this article covers a lot of the really cool stuff he has seen.

The FAA does not necessarily mind how you configure interiors as long as you don't try and qualify things as a "seat" for occupancy, takeoff and landing purposes.

Sleeping on the apron is likely more about airport rules than anything else. You would need some kind of an APU to run your electronics as most airports wont want you running your engines all night...

If it does not need to fly this is always an option.

While you likely cant order the cool defense stuff there is nothing stopping you from outfitting a VC-25 similar to Airforce One which is more than livable.

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    $\begingroup$ Most airports (at least in Europe) also won't let you run the APU all night (or anything longer than a few minutes after reaching your parking position / before pushback). So you'll need a ground power connection and possibly a PCA hose for air conditioning. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Jul 31, 2020 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ What do you need electronics for if you're just sleeping? It would be entirely possible to sleep in a non-running car with the battery disconnected; why can't you do the same in a plane? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Jan 29, 2023 at 6:36
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Realistic yes, it's expensive and not that convenient. There are people who live out of RVs or boats, traveling around for years with no fixed abode and it works out fine because there's an infrastructure they can use. An RV can stop at a grocery store to stock up on supplies, get deliveries or food or shipping at campgrounds and RV parks. Boats can dock at large marinas, many of which have supermarkets attached. In both types of places you can hook up to electricity. Many permanent RVers pull a small car on a trailer, so they can range out from their campground, explore, resupply, take care of business, etc.

A large enough airplane could be converted into a flying RV, although I'm not sure how you'd set up cooking arrangements if it's a pressurized fuselage. There are some considerations and challenges to making it work:

  • Most airfields are far away from towns and cities which have amenities, or sites you'd want to visit. You'd need to be choosy about where you go
  • Airfields are not set up to provide convenient hookups to RV-style airplanes, you'd need a lot of batteries and limit yourself to low power applications. This is totally workable, just not as convenient as having a hookup. You could get a truck to give you power, which is expensive - you wouldn't want to have it 24 hours a day, presuming one was available
  • Transportation out of the airfield could be a problem in some places. Some FBOs have a courtesy car to borrow, some do not. Some areas have taxi services and some don't. You could probably pack a moped away somewhere to get around that, of course there's limits to how much you can carry on one of those
  • Airfields don't have convenient markets for re-supply, you'd need to leave the airport for everything
  • If the airport is commercial you may have to pass through security every time you want to get back to your airplane
  • If an airport has a closing time you may not be able to get to your airplane after hours
  • Some airfields will let you camp by your plane, some will not
  • Airplanes aren't designed for comfort when still, there aren't lots of windows you can open up to get fresh air. You'd likely need some sort of AC system, which requires power
  • You'll need to pay ramp fees, which are parking fees for your airplane. These vary a great deal from airport to airport, a small jet at a small rural field may be $10-$20 per night (cheaper than many RV parks!) and waived for a week if you buy fuel, the same plane at Teterboro, NJ would be $300 per night
  • It would cost serious money to re-do an airplane as an RV because the materials must be lightweight, and to get it certified will be expensive as it's a one-off build
  • Airplanes are very expensive to own and operate to begin with

None of these are deal breakers, it's just a matter of money.

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    $\begingroup$ I would disagree with most of these limitations. There are plenty of airports that are smack in the middle of cities, many have pump out trucks (for waste) and ground power. More than 50% of the fields I have flown to have courtesy cars and UBER is almost everywhere now. More airports than you think have food available. Ive never been to a field that I cant access my plane 24/7 (sometimes with some arrangement) even if its "closed", when in doubt the code is usually the CTAF frequency.... Windows can be removed... $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Jul 31, 2020 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ Limitations was a bad choice of terms @Dave, there's nothing there that can't be worked around or lived with. They are more considerations, so I've re-worded accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 31, 2020 at 14:11

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