Life Video

By James Somper


A jetting mad aeroplane fan has spent £80,000 on restoring the cockpit of an old jet which once flew the Beatles – and found John Lennon’s boarding pass hidden in a wall.

Nils Alegen, 37, bought the cockpit of an old 1960 Sud Aviation Caravelle in August 2012 after finding it abandoned on an airfield.

The commercial airline pilot spent four years lovingly restoring the “Poitou” cockpit to working condition to use as a simulator.

Nils now takes paying customers on “flight” back in time to the glamorous jet age complete with canapes and champagne in the Caravelle’s state-of-the-art cockpit simulator.

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But it boasts some pretty famous former passengers – which Nils accidentally discovered after finding a boarding pass belonging to John Lennon stuffed away with a pile of papers as he ripped up the carpet.

Nils, from Munich, Germany was shocked to find that the aircraft had once flown the Beatles from Manchester to Paris in 1964.

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.”

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Nils’ love of the aircraft began as a child after his mum who worked on the jet 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 Nils 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.

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“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.”

Nils 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 it original working instruments.

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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.”

Nils 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 pilot’s alike the feeling that they’re actually airborne.

He said: “People love it.

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“Its got 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.”

He said: “I love the Caravelle.

“You need an 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.

“The aircraft was very famous in its day.

“It revolutionised air travel on short and medium haul routes cutting flight times by almost 50%.”