Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Beautiful Utility of Airline Galley Carts

SAS Galley Cart: Ready for service
This is my living room bar. Actually, it's an old airline galley cart, and this is the story of how it ended up in my living room... and how you can get one too.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted a galley cart -- the kind that flight attendants push down the aisles while serving food and drinks in the skies. Why? Well, I'm a hopeless aviation geek, of course, but I also admired the simplicity, durability, and versatility of airline galley carts. Plus, I reasoned, a galley cart would be the perfect foundation for a compact bar setup.

My quest to find a cart eventually took me to the deserts of El Mirage, California (right in the heart of Mr. Jalopy territory), where I found an aircraft boneyard with a few old galley carts to spare. Here's the one I liked best, as it looked the moment when I first laid eyes upon it:

My SAS galley cart: As found at an aircraft scrapyard

It's an old SAS galley cart from the late-1970s, manufactured in Switzerland by a company called Bucher. I bought it, took it to a self-service car wash to clean off the dust, then carried it home. Later, I built a few matching drawers, then loaded my cart up with vintage airline glassware, tiny bottles of liquor, cans of mixers, and plenty of napkins and bags of peanuts pinched from the cabins of the world's leading airlines.

It's turned out to be a wonderful tool for living. When not in use, all my barware and booze stows compactly and unobtrusively inside the cart. Come fun-time, the cart quickly converts into a bar, with plenty of workspace, easy access to bottles, and a snap-on tray (also found at the boneyard) that provides another level of storage for condiments and cocktail accessories:

SAS Galley Cart: Top level

Frankly, I don't know how anyone functions without one.

And you can imagine how giddy I became when I flew on SAS in 2007, and discovered that the airline still uses carts exactly like mine in commercial service:

Still in Service
But where to get one? Used airline galley carts are hard to find, and short-wheelbase carts like mine -- which are much better-suited to domestic use -- are even more rare. And even if you make the trek to the desert to visit a boneyard, the carts there are often in sad shape. New ones, however, cost several thousand dollars.

Happily, I just discovered another option. The Swiss company that manufactured my cart has an American subsidiary called Bucher Aerospace, and Bucher is now selling new carts to the general public at a fair price.

Costs start at around $800 for an empty cart sold in a selection of 10 tasteful colors. Throw in options like top rails, a foot brake (handy in turbulence), and some interior fittings, and the final price comes closer to $1300.

That's much less than a premium class roundtrip ticket from California to New York, and trust me when I say this: Having one of these carts at home makes every day feel like flying first class.

AlCarts - airline-style galley carts from Bucher Aerospace