As readers of Simple Flying know, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) has been involved in getting John Travolta’s former Qantas 707-138B back to Australia. Once at the HARS Aviation Museum, located just south of Sydney at Albion Park Airport, the iconic aircraft will live out its days as a popular tourist attraction for the non-profit aviation museum.
Just like anything involving complicated logistics and government approvals, trying to bring the former Qantas Boeing 707 back to Australian is proving more difficult than anticipated. One positive effect of the current COVID-19 pandemic is that it has given HARS time to complete essential maintenance on the rare aircraft.
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The project is backed by Bendigo Bank
Despite Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s generosity towards the project, the timeframe for the aircraft’s delivery has now been pushed back to 2021. When the plane finally arrives at Albion Park, it will be the last piece in the HARS jigsaw puzzle allowing the museum to display every significant aircraft type that has ever been operated by Qantas.
With the coronavirus preventing HARS volunteer engineers from traveling to the United States, Stambaugh Aviation in Brunswick, Georgia, has helped get the plane ready for its journey back to Australia. The next step required is to fit the pylons that support the massive engines under the wings. When speaking about this with the local Illawarra Mercury newspaper HARS vice president, Maureen Massey said:
“We have a quote for that and permission to go ahead. We have the money raised for that part of the program so we are going ahead with it. I am just waiting on them for the commencement date.
“First of all, they will drop the four engines, inhibit those, and store them. Then they will do the actual work on the pylons and will then replace each attachment fitting on each wing.”
HARS hopes they can get a special flight permit
Massey added that it was quite an undertaking and would most likely take around four to five months to complete. If the work can be completed by the end of November, HARS hopes that the FAA will grant the plane a special flight permit. If that were the case, John Travolta’s former plane would arrive at the museum in early 2021, depending of course on COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“The FFA are involved along with CASA,” Ms Massey said.
“It won’t be here any earlier than 2021. This is an older airplane and we have to do a thorough job which takes a lot of time, work and money.
“We are very happy with the funding from Bendigo Bank, which has been wonderful. We have their backing as the major sponsor, which gives us the confidence to proceed with the mission to bring the famous aircraft to Shellharbour.”
While speaking at an event to honor the final Qantas Boeing 747 flight last week, HARS president, Bob De La Hunty said that the museum’s full focus was now fixed on getting the Hollywood stars former 707 back to the aviation museum.
People can help by joining HARS
De La Hunty told people gathered that they could help speed up the process by becoming members of HARS.
“We are just about to send around $250,000 to the United States to start the pylon work that needs to be done on that aircraft,” he said.
“It is going to cost us, now after two years of researching and doing everything we can to get a special flight permit, about $1.6 million at this stage to do this work. Connie cost us over $3 million. People thought that was impossible. But we have now operated Connie for almost 30 years.”
Connie is a fully restored Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation used by Qantas on the famous Kangaroo Route to London.
Last November, after visiting the HARS museum, Travolta indicated that he would like to be in Shellharbour to greet his former aircraft when she finally arrives back home in Australia.
Have you ever been to the HARS museum? If so please tell us all about your visit in the comments.