The arrival in Australia of the Boeing 707 donated by movie legend John Travolta is now expected in 2020 as volunteers deal with safety checks and the mountains of paperwork needed to clear the flight.
The former Qantas aircraft has been donated by the film star to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society to become an exhibit at the society’s museum at Albion Park south of Sydney.
It was originally scheduled to arrive in November but the latest HARS newsletter revealed it has been relocated to a hangar in Brunswick, Georgia, while work is done to comply with an Airworthiness Directive.
The newsletter said the inspection involves using a high-frequency eddy current to search for cracks in the attachment fittings for the aircraft’s four engines.
“Originally the arrival of the 707 was planned for November 2019, but, as all aviation professionals know, the paperwork on an acquisition such as the 707 is enormous and involves hours and hours of research by engineering teams to ensure adherence with the strict aviation safety procedures of CASA and the FAA,’’ HARS 707 project director Maureen Massey said in the newsletter.
Massey said Travolta will visit Australia in November for a speaking tour but would arrive on a private jet rather than the 707.
However, he had committed to be on board the plane for its arrival at Albion Park next year.
The plane, which started life as VH-EBM, is the last of 13 707s specially built for Qantas and known as “hotrods”.
The Boeing 138B was about 10ft shorter than the standard 707 to give it better airfield performance and range.
Travolta’s aircraft was delivered to Qantas in 1964 and sold to Braniff International Airways in 1969.
It was converted to a VIP jet in 1973 and had a number of owners, including singer Frank Sinatra and billionaire Kirk Kirkorian.
Travolta first came into contact with it while filming “Get Shorty” but had to wait three years before it hit the right price in 1998.
Travolta bore the cost of maintaining the aircraft for the first four years, before striking a deal with then Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon to paint the plane in Qantas colors and come on board as the airline’s ambassador.
The quid pro quo was that Qantas took over the aircraft’s expensive maintenance.
The actor put the plane up for sale several years ago and decided to donate it after an approach from HARS.
Bringing the aircraft back to Australia is a costly exercise and anyone keen to support the project can make a tax-deductible donation. The email is [email protected]