A Residence That’s as ‘Plane’ as Can Be

A Boeing DC-9 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 become the cornerstones of a man’s Texas dream home.

The Boeing DC-9 section of Joe Axline’s home being transported. [Credit: Joe Axline]

“Captain” Joe Axline of Brookshire, Texas—about 38 miles west of Houston—lives in an airplane. Well, actually two airplanes, as portions of a Boeing DC-9 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 comprise his roughly 600-square-foot home. The novel thought of constructing a residence entirely out of a retired aircraft has long been a dream of Axline’s. It is a vision that goes back more than three decades. 

“In the (1973 TV) show called The Magician with Bill Bixby, he would use his magical skills to solve crimes," Axline said. "I thought that the show was really cool. He would drive his Corvette into the back of his airplane and fly off. It had all of the things that kids of that age like, magic, cars, and airplanes. So I said to my dad, ‘That’s really cool. I would like to do that someday.’ I didn’t really know how or when. But I could feel the why.”

A sketch of Joe Axline’s dream airplane home, which he refers to as “Project Freedom.” [Credit: Joe Axline]

If you could summarize Axline’s modus operandi of life in three words, it would be to “follow your dreams.” This has enabled him to successfully undertake a number of large-scale projects, including the year-and-a-half effort that involved making a home out of two decommissioned passenger jets. 

“My whole purpose of building this airplane home was to satisfy me,” he said. “What I want people out there in the world to know is that their dream is important to them. And that’s why I say ‘dreams to reality’ is my presentation. It’s because I want people to understand that I’m not here for you to duplicate what I do. That’s not important at all.

“The only duplication that I want you to do is to write down your own dream and to give it a name. Do that and write down the details the best you can, and, of course, it can evolve and become bigger. Then put down a date and sign it, like you are signing a contract—which you are. And once you understand that you have a dream, it’s your dream and not mine, everybody’s going to laugh at it. But then when you are living your dream, everybody is going to say that you are lucky.” 

In 2011, a change in personal circumstances allowed Axline the freedom to tackle his unique project. 

“In all of the years that (my ex-wife and I) were married, she never cared or knew that I was going to build an airplane home,.” he said. “When we went through the divorce and I bought this property that I’m living on and the airplane that I’m living in, she immediately said to the court system that I can’t live in an airplane because it’s ‘not right.’ So, I had an architect, one of the best architects in Houston, and I also had the very best engineers that designed the support system that this airplane is sitting on. The support system goes 20 feet deep, and there is 25 cubic yards of concrete. The judge said, ‘There is no problem!’"

Although Axline’s home is no longer in airworthy condition, there are plenty of airworthy planes nearby. That is because his residence is situated at Sport Flyers Airport (27XS). 

Joe Axline’s in-work hangar, which he hopes will one day house an ICON A5 and a Fokker D.VII replica. [Credit: Joe Axline]

“This airport has been around for over 40 years,” he said. “This property that I’m sitting on, this particular space, had been empty for 30 years before I bought it in April of 2011. I was able to buy it and brought the airplanes here. Now, there are 40 homeowners on each side of the (4,091-foot-long turf) runway.”

Now that he has lived in his aircraft home for a little more than a decade, the longtime instrument-rated private pilot has moved onto tackling other goals. And like many inputs in aviation, his next goal requires a certain amount of time and money be put toward it. 

Inside Joe Axline’s airplane home. [Credit: Joe Axline]

“I don’t own an airplane that’s flyable,” Axline said. “But all of my neighbors say, ‘Hey, Joe. If you want the keys, they’re in it—take it and just fill it up with gas when you are done.’ It’s pretty awesome! Part of the plan is that I will have a 40-by-50-foot hangar (the project is roughly halfway completed) right next to the airplane here. The roof will be solar panels, which will give me a lot of solar energy.

“I will have an ICON A5, and I will have an old Fokker D.VII replica or something similar to that—whatever it may come up to be. I’m building a business right now, where I do reputation management for businesses. Everybody says that they are good, but what do their clients say? I help them automate that capability and, as I get more customers, I get to do more of the things that I want to do (with the hangar and airplanes).”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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