David's bought a Boeing for glamping

A Sligo undertaker shares his fantastical vision with Sorcha Crowley for a transport themed 'quirky glamping village' on a 15 acre site in Enniscrone complete with a 29 year old jumbo jet, trains, boats and taxis

Sligo Champion

A Sligo entrepreneur will find out this week whether his radical idea to sail an old Russian passenger jet from Shannon airport to his 'glamping' site in Enniscrone will succeed.

Funeral Director David McGowan hopes to complete the complex operation in a world first using a highly specialised 'hover' barge this month.

The plane will form part of the world's first transport-themed 'Quirky Nights Glamping Village' on a 15-acre site close to Enniscrone beach. David plans to have it open to the first 'passenger stopovers' by next summer.

The €3 million park will have an 'airport' containing the Russian jet which will accommodate 9 bedrooms, a 'Bus station' containing ten double decker Dublin buses, four retired London Underground train carriages, London black taxis and a even a 'marina' with boats dry dock for guests to experience a night in.

David also plans to build a shopping forecourt and restaurant for his 'villagers'.

His ambitious plan will create 40 new jobs in the West Sligo coastal village and "put Sligo on the world tourist map" according to David.

His idea has attracted world wide attention and he's been fielding queries from broadcasters such as the BBC, UTV, and Channel 4.

It's gone viral across social media - his YouTube and Facebook videos have been viewed over 150,000 times in 25 days.

Crossmolina-based TV Production company GMarsh TV is filming David's journey to create the glamping village for a six-part TV documentary to be aired next year.

The biggest challenge for the Easkey native right now is moving his aeroplane to Enniscrone. The original plan to transport it by road has had to be abandoned due to the logistics of bringing something that was built for the air, onto our narrow country roads.

"We're taking it day by day. The road at the site will be ready in ten days. It's down to the sea now," he told The Sligo Champion.

The initial plan to move the 159ft long, 17ft wide and 70 tonne heavy jet by road wouldn't work because it wouldn't fit under three bridges.

"Not being able to move it by road was a major setback. There was two years planning in this," David said. He had hoped to put cranes on the bridges and hoist the plane over them but the local authorities refused him permission to use cranes on the bridges.

David has now turned to the sea and has hired several marine engineers to look at how it could be transported by barge.

If they use a regular barge, they'll have to split the fuselage into two halves in order to get around the Bath House in Enniscrone.

However, if they can persuade the operators of a more expensive 'Hover barge' to assist them they can transport the plane whole, at a much higher cost.

"There's a hover barge sailing from the Netherlands to Scotland in December and that can go up on to the runway in Shannon, sail up the coast and come right onto Enniscrone beach. It's an amazing piece of engineering," said David.

It could cost up to €300,000-400,000 however. "We're waiting on them and two other companies to get back to us this week with a price. It's all about the sea now. I've good seamen working on it with me. They reckon it's doable," he said.

He's also looking at getting companies to advertise on the plane while it's sailing up the coast on the hover barge. Between the media coverage during the move and in the TV documentary there would be world-wide publicity for whatever companies chose to advertise: "It would help pay for the hover barge," added David.

He's already overcome challenges posed by the plane at Shannon airport.

He originally got the idea for his world-first transport themed glamping park from visiting sites in England and France. The transport theme is his twist on a modern trend of glamorous camping in unusual locations.

"They saw people with teepee tents and thought I'd put my own twist on the glamping idea for the site out in Enniscrone.

"I came up with the transport theme a couple of years ago. I decided to go for everything and I didn't exclude planes. I discovered that they do come in for decommissioning from time to time so I was watching out for them at Dublin, Cork, Knock and Shannon, airports.

"I checked with Shannon and they told me they had a plane but they said 'it's no good for you, it's too big'. I said 'hold on to it til I get down to see it'," he laughs.

The 29 year old 767 belonging to the Transaero Russian airline which has just filed for bankruptcy. It flew passengers to destinations all around the world out of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

"We did the deal. They owed money to Shannon airport so we secured a deal," said David.

"She's spent 29 years in the sky, flying out of Moscow, Philadelphia, Heathrow, all around the world," he added.

Thinking he had his plane organised, a shock was in store for David when the receivers of the Russian airline confiscated the plane.

Once he got that problem sorted, another issue arose.

"The birds started nesting in it. And birds are the worst thing to have around airports," he said.

The powers that be ordered the planes immediate destruction on health and safety grounds due to the hazard the birds were posing to incoming and departing flights out of Shannon.

"We had to hire some bird experts to put the case to the Shannon authorities that the bird nesting season was all over so thankfully they gave us a reprieve," he said.

Preparations are underway at the site in Enniscrone to receive the jet. "It's taken 500 loads of stone and the road will be ready in the next ten days," he said.

The successful funeral director has already overcome several hurdles to get planning for his site and is operating on his own: "Everyone hung up the phone on me," he said.

"I had to convince Sligo County Council that I didn't need psychiatric help. Now I'm making the concept a reality."

The Boeing 767 is 159ft long, 17 ft wide and weighs over 70 tonnes.