Hollywood actor John Travolta’s ex-Boeing 707 is being returned to Australia. It is expected to arrive at its new home sometime in November.
Travolta donated the former Qantas jet to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) two years ago, but preparation for its flight to Australia has been a complicated process.
Now, after being granted a special permit to make the journey, the plane will arrive in Albion Park, just south of Wollongong sometime in November.
Once in its new home, the aircraft will be on public display at the museum where they hope it will become a popular attraction thanks to its celebrity owner.
John Travolta wants to be there for the handover
Travolta loves everything to do with aviation and has already told his agents that he is unavailable for work in November. He plans to travel with the planes and become a part of the handover.
When talking about the 707s arrival with ABC News, HARS president Bob De La Hunty said,
“It [the special permit] opened up a huge opportunity of doing it sooner than later, so we’ve taken that option and we’ve planned for a November arrival. John Travolta has made available the month of November to give us some flexibility.
“He’s said he won’t schedule any film commitments so he can be flexible. He is very passionate about this airplane and he realized he didn’t have the engineering resources to deal with it over the future.
“So in giving it to us, he could see we could take a lot of care with it.”
Travolta knows that he is doing the right thing by donating the plane to HARS. He already knows Bob De La Hunty personally after the Illawarra pilot took him up in a 1955 Super Constellation back in 2009.
HARS needs money to bring the 707 back to Australia
Officially HARS has been the owner of the ex-Qantas Boeing 707-138B for the past 18 months but permit and funding issues have delayed its flight to Australia.
“The main objective is to get it here and we still need some funding to do that, but nowhere near what we previously anticipated,” Mr. De La Hunty said.
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Still $300,000 AUD ($210,000) short of the money needed, the museum remains confident that public and private donations will make up the shortfall.
Museum volunteers are the best qualified to maintain the plane
Many of the HARS volunteers are retired pilots, engineers, and mechanics. Some of them have actually flown and worked on Travolta’s plane in the past.
“He didn’t want to give it up when he donated it to us, but we have over 700 volunteers and about 200 of them were with Qantas,” Mr. De La Hunty said.
“We’ve got all those engineers that worked on this very airplane, so they’re very familiar with it. To him, it made common sense rather than leaving it to be scrapped or parked in a museum.”
Travolta is, of course, qualified to fly the 707 in the United States. But, with the plane now being registered as an Australian aircraft, the Saturday Night Fever star will not be allowed in the cockpit as he had hoped. Behind the controls will be an experienced crew from HARS and a handpicked group of volunteers will travel as passengers.
Designed to originally fly 140 passengers, the plane is now a flying palace, complete with an en-suite bedroom, kitchen, lounge and enough seating for 25 people.
“We’ll have it on showcase and people can go through it and see the luxury appointments inside it, and see how the rich and famous travel around the world,” said Mr. De La Hunty.
After purchasing the plane in 1998, Travolta approached Qantas and asked them if it was OK to repaint the plane in its retro Qantas livery. The Australian airline loved the idea. Today, the plane looks as it did back in the 1960s when it flew passengers on the Fiesta Route from Sydney to London.
Currently, the 707 is stored at Brunswick Golden Isles Airport in Georgia from where it will make its way to Australia.