Man converts World War II-era plane into Airbnb
KEMPSTER, Wis. (WSAW/Gray News) - “Neat” is one word Joe Draeger used a lot when talking about his Airbnb near Antigo, Wisconsin.
“I knew it was going to be neat, but I didn’t know it was going to be that big or look the way it does where it’s hung up in the trees to make it look like a plane either landed or crashed,” Draeger said.
About 19 months ago, Draeger had an idea.
“When I was searching on Airbnb here a few years back, I saw one in Venezuela, and it had more of a short modified version, just like a cockpit and a small part of the fuselage and a short section of the wing. I thought it’d be neat if you’re going to do that to do the whole thing,” Draeger described.
With his contractor Gary Fleischman on board, Draeger got to work.
“It didn’t seem that outlandish at the time,” Fleischman said.
Thinking he’d head out to the Air Force boneyard in Arizona, Draeger was turned toward Oshkosh.
“The Basler Turbo Conversion Company, so I went down there and talked to them,” Draeger said. “And sure enough, they had one that they said they had taken so many parts off of it, it was going to be scrap or unusable for them and he sold it to me.”
In October 2022, the 1941 DC-3 World War II-era plane was hauled to his shop in Antigo to remodel it inside and out.
“It’s so short you obviously don’t have a lot of headroom,” Draeger said.
Draeger paid $10,000 for the plane, which he thought was a bargain.
“I wasn’t sure how it was all going to lay out. Obviously, you’ve got a 60-by-8-foot tube and you have to make it into a living quarters,” Draeger said.
He has put another $50,000 into it to get it where it is now.
“We had to empty out the whole fuselage and then put it all back together and make it livable,” Fleischman said. “You know, to where you know people are comfortable in it.”
There is a forest view one way and High Lake on the other.
When the rebuild was finished, Draeger moved the plane to a piece of property in Kempster, Wisconsin, approximately 10 miles north of Antigo.
“That’s the biggest thing that interested me was the actual history of the plane,” Fleischman added. “Bring it back so it still had some of that authenticity to it.”
They then put it on stilts to give it an airborne sensation.
“Had a crane pick it up and then set it over the trees and onto the cradle we engineered, created,” Draeger recalled.
To top it off, Draeger and Fleishman recreated propellers out of big ceiling fans with giant blades hooked up to a converted motor.
“They’re motion detected, so when you walk up on them, the lights come on and the blades start to spin,” Draeger described.
When the sun sets, more fun begins.
“At night, it’s all lit up,” Draeger said. “The wings are lit. The tail is lit. The motors are lit. It looks a little more unique at night when it’s lit.”
For the Antigo businessman, the job met and flew past his own expectations.
The plane is open for business.
Draeger said the state did inspect it in the listing, so no safety questions were left up in the air. He also has two other rental properties, including a giant tree house.
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