Bringing a Dream Down to Earth
Saturday, May 5, 2007
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- So you think you've got decorating problems? Next time you whine about it, think about Billie Broome. Her husband, Rick, added the better part of a Boeing 727 to their house, then built a sunroom around it.
All Billie can say at this point is: "Thank goodness he didn't bring the entire plane home." Only the front section, from the wings forward, graces their residence -- although "graces" hardly describes the looming presence of a 15,800-pound, 50-foot-long, 12 1/2 -foot- wide, 27 1/2 -foot-tall objet d'art.
Oddly enough, you can't tell there's a gargantuan piece of a plane in their house if you're standing outside. But open a door on the north side, and you suddenly find yourself walking down the plane's aisle, enveloped in a cocoon of the original decor: gray rug on the walls; a pink, orange and blue mural; and more gray industrial rug on the floor. You can also board the plane via a catwalk from the kitchen or from gleaming rollaway air stairs near Billie's Early American couch in the sunroom.
The tableau includes something never seen these days on a real flight -- a cockpit with the door wide open.
"It feels like home," said Rick, sitting in the pilot's seat of the fully equipped cockpit. "It's in my will that some of my ashes will be scattered in here."
It's a dream come true for Rick -- literally.
"I first saw the idea in a dream when I was about 16," said Rick, who said he has had that same dream often over the years.
What do you expect from an airplane fanatic? He likes to point out that he was born in Pueblo, Colo., on Oct. 13, 1946 -- "a year and one day before test pilot and astronaut Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier." Broome made headlines at age 16 when he soloed in nine types of planes. He has about 2,200 flying hours on 41 civilian planes and is an inductee in the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.
In college, he worked as an airline mechanic and was accepted as a flight officer candidate in 1971. When the class was canceled, he fell back on a longtime hobby, painting, and that became his livelihood. An internationally known painter of aviation scenes, he creates an annual painting for the Air Force Academy's graduating class and has donated more than 60 originals to the school.
But knowing how to paint a plane isn't as much fun as having a real one in your home. So he searched two years for an airliner. At a movie lot, his broker found one that had actually flown the friendly skies of United before being put out to pasture as a prop in movies and television, including episodes of "24" and an A&E documentary about United Flight 93.
When the 727 arrived by truck at the Broomes' home in 2005, a massive crane had to lift the fuselage 100 feet in the air and set it down on three specially made girders behind the house. In 14 months, the house grew from 4,000 square feet to 6,500 square feet with the addition of the new sunroom built around the plane.
If Rick faced a challenge finding the plane and getting it to the house, Billie has been equally challenged trying to decorate a room around it. When she was hunting for a rug for the new sunroom, she had a hard time getting the color just right.