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A German airplane enthusiast thought he was lucky when he was able to purchase part of an abandoned 1960 Sud Aviation Caravelle. But it was during the renovation process that Nils Alegen realized he'd really hit the jackpot. While working on the cockpit, Alegen found a boarding pass that once belonged to a famous passenger: John Lennon.
"When I disassembled the whole cockpit, that boarding pass showed up, together with many other papers between the cockpit and galley wall," Alegen told Caters News. "The galley is located right behind the cockpit. A flight attendant must have kept it and certainly lost it at some point."
When he discovered the piece of paper with the flight number and name on, the Munich resident decided to do some research to ensure that it was, in fact, John Lennon of The Beatles. A bit of digging revealed that the plane had, in fact, flown the legendary rock band from Manchester to Paris in 1964. He even later found a photo of the Fab Four posing on the steps of the plane.
While the boarding pass was certainly a nice bonus, it's still the fact that he was able to buy the plane itself that gets him most excited.
Alegen, who was a long-time aviation fan due to his flight attendant mother, found the rusting Caravelle in an airfield near Paris in 2012. "When I arrived at the airfield, I was asked, 'What do you want with an old rust bucket?'" he said. "Most of the parts of the aircraft were heavily corroded, only the parts and areas exposed to cabin airflow like the nose wheel were OK."
He spent $100,000 to turn the historic gem into a state-of-the-art simulator that customers can use. "You need a lot of passion to do a restoration all by yourself. It was a labor of love," he said. "It took me four years, £80,000 [$100,000] and about 5,000 hours to get it working. Every switch, every gauge works as it would on the aircraft. People love it. It's got a very iconic cockpit, which feels like sitting in a science-fiction spaceship."
And aside from its famous passengers, the aircraft was also notable during its heyday. "It revolutionized air travel on short and medium-haul routes cutting flight times by almost 50 percent," he said. There's no other aircraft like it. I love everything about [it].”