It was a big weekend announcement and it comes with a rather large price tag.
Getting Hollywood star John Travolta’s Boeing 707 from the United States to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), at the Illawarra Regional Airport, is expected to cost about $1 million.
HARS president Bob De La Hunty said that expense was “not an unrealistic figure”, and stressed the exposure generated by the aircraft and its star power would be invaluable for the Illawarra.
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Travolta, a Qantas ambassador and pilot, revealed on Saturday that he would donate his beloved vintage passenger jet to HARS.
The ex-Qantas plane, which has also been owned by singer Frank Sinatra, requires a large amount of work before it can be flown to its new home at Albion Park.
Asked about the cost of getting the 707 up to scratch, Mr De La Hunty said: “How long’s a piece of string?”
“The projected costs on these sort of projects are pretty hard [to determine],” he said.
“A considerable amount of fuel will be required … and then the service bulletins we need to deal with over there will certainly be significant.”
Sponsors are being used to fund the project. HARS has already been backed by Bendigo Bank’s Oak Flats and Shellharbour branches, via an undisclosed financial contribution.
Travolta’s plane gift does not extend to any extra financial support.
Mr De La Hunty said the project’s total value would be “a frighteningly-large sum”, but in-kind support and volunteer work “makes these things possible”.
“Everything we do is dependent on the public supporting us,” he said.
Payments HARS received for providing planes at shows across the country helped defray the costs involved and encouraged the society to “take on more iconic history-saving projects”, Mr De La Hunty said.
Read John Travolta’s full statement below
It gives me great pleasure to make this exciting historical announcement that my beloved Boeing 707 aircraft has been donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration society (HARS) based in the town of Albion Park, approximately 90 miles (140 km) south of the city of Sydney in Australia.
As many of you will know, flying is a passion of mine and I am just so grateful to be fortunate enough to count many hours flying such a beautiful aircraft.
The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”.
I was honoured to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colours when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.
The aircraft currently requires a lot of work to be restored to a safe flying state and having seen first hand the dedication and passion of people at HARS, I have no doubt this beautiful and historical aircraft will be flying again.
HARS have an impressive track record of restoring historical aircraft and I have personally flown in a Super Constellation that they restored to flying condition from almost nothing.
I am hoping to be part of the crew to fly the aircraft to Australia, supported by well qualified and experienced pilots and engineers.
In making this announcement, I would like to mention the significant support given by the Bendigo Bank Oak Flats and Shellharbour Community Bank Branches who as a local organization, have been very supportive of HARS’ efforts in aircraft restoration.
Thanks must also go to QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited Services for their significant support as well.
I am truly excited by this project and am just so pleased that this beautiful aircraft, for which I obviously have very fond memories, will continue to fly well into the future.
Thank you, John Travolta