Nils Alegen, 37, a commercial pilot from Munich, bought the Sud Aviation Caravelle in August 2012
ºHe has since restored the ‘Poitou’ cockpit as a simulator and takes passengers back in time to its heyday
ºHe discovered a boarding pass belonging to Lennon stashed with papers between the cockpit and galley
ºHe also found a photograph of The Beatles standing on the steps of the jet before a trip to Paris
An aeroplane enthusiast has spent £80,000 restoring the cockpit of an old jet which he discovered once flew the Beatles after finding John Lennon‘s boarding pass hidden in a wall.
Nils Alegen, 37, bought the cockpit of a 1960 Sud Aviation Caravelle in August 2012 after finding it abandoned on an airfield. The commercial airline pilot from Munich, Germany, has spent four years lovingly restoring the ‘Poitou’ cockpit to working condition to use as a simulator.
Mr Alegen now takes paying customers on a ‘flight’ back in time to the glamorous jet age complete with canapes and champagne in the Caravelle’s state-of-the-art cockpit simulator.
During the restoration, the pilot stumbled across a boarding pass belonging to John Lennon stuffed away with a pile of papers as he ripped up the carpet. Mr Alegen did some research and was shocked to find that the aircraft had once flown the Beatles to Paris in 1964.
He even found a photograph of all four Beatles standing on the steps of Poitou.
The restorer believes the boarding pass was kept as a souvenir by a flight attendant who lost it in the forward galley.
He said: ‘When I disassembled the whole cockpit that boarding pass showed up together with many other papers between the cockpit and galley wall.
‘The galley is located right behind the cockpit. A flight attendant must have kept it and certainly lost it at some point.’
Mr Alegen’s love of the Caravelle began as a child after his mother who worked on it as an air hostess reminisced about working in the airline industry in its heyday in the 1960s.
Inspired, he became a commercial airline pilot himself and flies all over the world.But at the age of 30, Mr Alegen decided to take his hobby one step further and tracked down a rusting Caravelle to an airfield near Paris.He said: ‘I found it in an old airfield near Paris. As soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect.
‘It stood outside under a tree for decades hence it suffered from extensive corrosion and was missing a number of bits and pieces.’When I arrived at the airfield I was asked, “What do you want with an old rust bucket?”‘Most of the parts of the aircraft were heavily corroded, only the parts and areas exposed to cabin air flow like the nose wheel were OK.
‘Some areas were corrosion free thanks to the nicotine and the heavy smoking on board.’
Mr Alegen then had to transport the aircraft back to Munich where he spent 5,000 hours over four years stripping away the rusted cockpit interior and replacing the original working instruments.He said: ‘It was a labour of love. It took me four years, £80,000 and about 5,000 hours to get it working.’Every switch, every gauge works as it would on the aircraft.’He now gives paying customers the chance to fly the aircraft in his state-of-the-art simulator.
A viewing system connected to the aircraft’s controls combined with vibrating seats gives passengers and pilots the feeling of being airborne.He said: ‘People love it. It’s got a very iconic cockpit which feels like sitting in a science fiction space ship.’It flies amazingly, it’s a very forgiving aircraft. It’s very easy to correct something if you do it wrong.’I love the Caravelle. You need a lot of passion to do a restoration all by yourself. It’s certainly been a labour of love.’I love everything about the aircraft. I love the shape, it’s very clean, unique and elegant. ‘There’s no other aircraft like it, it’s really unique in its design.’