This Holiday, Why Not Give Dad a Boeing 747? Or at Least, Part of One

Storied plane maker sells vintage parts and photos

Ever dream of having your own 707 wide-body jet? Or something sportier like a P-51 Mustang? Well, it's finally possible (in a sense), thanks to an unusual marketing initiative at Boeing.

A pair of 737 seats and a 747 JT9D engine

combustion chamber coffee table

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer is selling parts of old airplanes as home accessories—decorative mirrors made from 727 stator rings ($1,200); combustion chamber coffee tables ($4,500); and even galley beverage carts ($1,900 and perfect for serving in narrow spaces). Boeing harvests the parts from retired aircraft, then cleans and finishes them for domestic use. Boeing's director of brand management James Newcomb calls it recycling in the best sense. "It's amazing how quickly it sells," he added. "We have trouble keeping stuff in stock."

For those with a little less money to spend, Boeing has also made hundreds of photographs from its corporate archive available to the general public, which can order shots of everything from Apache helicopters to early passenger jets. (Scroll to the bottom to see a few.) While Boeing has permitted professionals such as art directors to license photos since 2002, management recently launched a website to handle general-interest orders while greatly expanding the number of images on offer.

"There's definitely a demand," Newcomb said, "and we've been finding over time that the demand is bigger than we ever thought it was."

Of course, it helps that 98-year-old Boeing built many of the aircraft that made 20th century headlines, from the B17 bombers of WWII to NASA's first lunar orbiters. Most consumers probably wouldn't care to own a historic photograph from the archives of a company that makes cat food or lawn mowers—but airplanes are different. They have fans. And the fan-friendly prices ($16 for an 8×10 print, unframed) make it clear that Boeing had ordinary consumers in mind.

Boeing isn't a consumer brand (a new 787 Dreamliner would set you back $250 million), but Newcomb said that selling old plane parts and historic photos generate goodwill with the public, and no brand can have too much of that. "If people can find something they love and interact with it, it helps bring home a personalized brand experience. We want to make sure that those people who are interested can have us in their lives."

Like, say, a pair of 737 business class seats. And at $1,950, they're cheaper than two tickets to sit in them on a regular flight.

Passenger workhorse DC-6 on the tarmac

Cutaway of a Model 314 flying boat, circa 1938

The world's first flight attendants, assembled outside a Model 80A

Aboard the 377 Stratocruiser in the 1950s