Back in June 2016, images were popping up online of what seemed to be a Lion Air 737-400 aircraft being towed around the main roads of Bali. The transportation of this aircraft led to massive traffic jams, with locals stopping to see this rare sight. Local residents even feared that it might have been another Lion Air plane crash, which was not the case. After the many questions and speculations as to what this aircraft was being used for, it was confirmed that it would be for an aviation themed-restaurant. As I was in Bali at the time, I had to check out what all the fuss was about. I then arrived at the site which is located in the Gianyar area.
The front secton of the aircraft being steadly held up by crane operators. This delicate task could have ended badly under the wrong conditions.
The rear fuselage still strapped onto one of the trailers.
After speaking to locals, transporting this 737 proved to be a difficult task. The aircraft had been sitting on the tarmac at Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport since 2014. The future of the plane was unknown as it was barely airworthy. That was until April 2016 when a local businessman, Abdi Negara, decided to purchase the aircraft with the intent of transporting it to Bali. At the time, there were rumors that the aircraft would be refitted for cabin crew and pilot training. In June the same year, Abdi had received police clearance in Surabaya and Bali to transport the plane parts via land and ferry.
Three trailers were required to get the 737 to Bali. The fuselage of the aircraft was cut in half and strapped to their own trailers, while the horizontal stabilizer, wings, landing gear, tail assembly and engine cowlings were put on a separate trailer. The three trailers made their way from Surabaya to the Port of Banyuwangi, located at the easternmost end of Java. After the trucks arrived at the Port of Gilimanuk, it took the team four nights to get it to Giyanyar, passing through Singaraja and Karangasem along the way.
The aircraft wings and main landing gears are nowhere to be seen.
Found the wheels! Spare parts anyone?
The 38 tonne aircraft was sold as is by Juanda International Airport, with its seats and avionics removed. It sold for an astounding price of Rp 3 billion (just over $305,000 AUD). A number of 737-400 classics are on sale today. A well-maintained, airworthy aircraft could sell for over $9 million AUD in today’s market. While the purchase of the plane itself was a significant expense, it doesn’t include the costs of transportation, work force, restaurant fittings, land ownership, and the other expenses associated with starting a business. Contemplating the finance and logistics behind the AeroPark is daunting; however it is the only restaurant of its kind in Bali.
Wings, tail assembly, engine and landing gears finally put back on! It took the team less then a month to get it to this point and completely clean the interior of the aircraft.
Another close up. These photos were taken in July 2016, a month after the delivery of the aircraft.
With a soft opening on the 15th of October 2016, the plane-turned-restaurant took only seven months to get up and running. I recently revisited the site to see the final product, and it is remarkable. As you approach the entrance to the AeroPark, the size of the aircraft and the engineering is nothing short of admirable. It is unique to say the least!
When driving on Jl. By Pass Ida Bagus Mantra, you cannot miss this restaurant.
The location of the AeroPark is down the road from Bali's Safari and Marine Park. It also boasts stunning views of the surrounding rice fields and Ketwel Beach – both visible from the restaurant.
A random registration PK-TBA slapped onto the rear of the aircraft.
I'll be dining under the wings today, while the bar area is located under the circular platform.
The cabin of the aircraft has been stripped, and the 737-400 that used to seat 168 economy passengers, is now fitted with a dining room that will seat 60 guests. It is also possible to book the entire aircraft for functions.
After all the media surrounding drunken passengers flying to Bali, AeroPark is the only place in Bali you can have several drinks on an aircraft that is likely to not result in an escort by Indonesian Police. If you fancy standing on the wing of an aircraft with a cold Bintang, without the risk of being arrested or injured in the process – AeroPark is the destination for you.
A remarkable view from the right aircraft wing. You will have to use the emergency exit to get here!
You can also access the cockpit, however most of the avionics have been removed, and are most likely still flying around the world in other aircrafts. The cockpit has some mechanical parts left – thrust levers, flaps and landing gear controls are all where they should be, and are still mobile.
If you haven't been into a 737-400 cockpit before, i'm letting you now there isn't much room to move around.
Back to the good old days, Lion Air's aircraft flight and maintenance logbook.
The only issue with AeroPark Is that guests who wish to dine in the aircraft must choose from a provided set menu. If a set menu isn’t for you, there are plenty of tables below the aircraft where an a la cart menu is offered. While the menu selections are somewhat limited, it will do. If you’re considering the location and views, AeroPark is reasonably priced. However a special mention about the service – it is impeccable. With the first beer down, there was an immediate offer for another.
The Vietnamese Spring Rolls priced at Rp 25,000 (Just under $3 AUD). I wish they hadn’t put sweet chilli sauce at the bottom of the plate, but was tasty nonetheless. Knowing the portion size and price for two spring rolls, you can decide if thats good value for money. Next were some pork ribs, with an expectation for some meat on the plate. Portion size was relatively standard, but the marinade was very overpowering. However it was my mistake to order from the International dishes. The local dishes that came past looked amazing. The Barbecue Pork Ribs are the most expensive dish on the menu and will set you back Rp 59,000 ($6 AUD).
My overall experience at the AeroPark was interesting, and something a bit different to see in Bali. If you are going Ubud, keep an eye out for this aircraft - you cannot miss it. Stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. If you have young kids, this is the ultimate playground.
History of the Aircraft
This particular aircraft has a vast histroy, where for most of its life had been flying around the UK and Europe. The aircraft had it's first flight on the 23rd of January 1989 and was delivered in April from Boeing to a short-lived British airline, Novair International. Following their bankruptcy in May 1990, British Midland Airways purchased the aircraft under the same registration G-BOPJ.
The following year, British Midland changed the aircraft registration to G-OBMN. The aircraft flew for British Midland for the next few years on short haul flights. The aircraft would often be seen departing from London, Heathrow to several UK and European tourist destinations. Towards the end of the 90’s, British Midland switched aircraft suppliers from Boeing and Fokker, to Airbus and Embraer, selecting a variety of A320 aircrafts and ERJ 135/145s to replace their fleet of 737s and F70/100s. In 1997, British Midland sold the aircraft to Spanish airline Futura International. The aircraft was then reregistered for the third time as EC-GRX.
It was on the 2nd of December 2005 when Lion Air completed the purchase of the 737 from Futura International. It was in Indonesia where the aircraft had its final registration of PK-LII. The Aircraft served many short haul domestic and international routes from Lion Air's hub at Jakarta's Soekarno Hatta International Airport.