By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Passionate about aviation, Penney Pollard worked for an airline company for 18 years before she began running one of the five companies she owns with her husband, also a pilot. Before her current life took wing, there was a stint flipping houses. “I bought really bad houses,” she says, laughing. Resurrecting them stoked a creative fire in her that she now fans by designing furniture made from airplanes.
President of the global company Pollard Spares, she oversees a team of six that “parts out” jet aircraft for resale. They certify the soundness of everything from brakes to engines to wheels, and there’s a wait list. But it’s the leftovers that inspire Pollard. Pieces that aren’t used get upcycled into one-off chairs, bars, desks and more for Sky Candy Aero Designs, her creative outlet.
It’s a side gig that she fits into a busy schedule. But because of the difficulty of finding manufacturers — the aluminum requires special handling — she doesn’t see Sky Candy ever becoming a mass-production operation. Not that she would want it to. She notes that while Restoration Hardware’s Aviator furniture is inspired by aircraft, her furniture is made from real airplanes, handcrafted one piece at a time. When she can, she taps into the talent of Jerry Fain of Jerry Fain Models in Bedford, who makes the ejection seats for F-16 fighter jets. The designs are hers, the meticulous craftsmanship is his.
Most popular among Pollard’s creations is a chair refashioned from a Gulfstream II engine inlet. It’s very comfortable, but for the designer, there’s more to its attractiveness than that. “To me, it’s about owning a piece of art and a piece of flying history.” Her furniture comes with a certificate authenticating its origin.
She calls her design style “industrial glam,” and in her Roanoke office (on a landing strip), crystal pendant lights and mirror-front Hollywood Regency-style chests accent the Sky Candy chairs, a bar and conference table and Pollard’s desk, made from a Beechcraft Duke horizontal stabilizer.
Pollard Spares is parting out three planes this year. She finds some via “bird dogs” in the field to whom she pays a finder’s fee, but more often she acquires them through an extensive network built from her husband’s 27 years in the aircraft industry (Tim Pollard sells new and previously owned planes and is featured in the cable television show Selling Jets). Penney will be on the lookout for what’s not resalable but has potential for Sky Candy. “Those are my treasures,” she says.