The full story behind Travolta's private jet fleet
John Travolta (64), a Hollywood star, famous for his many films, including Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Pulp Fiction, was an aviation enthusiast since his childhood.
When he was a child, the entertainment industry and aviation merged. His mother, Helen Cecilia Burke, and three sisters were stage performers who often traveled. Every day, Travolta would wait for planes to fly over the family’s home. Travolta lived in New Jersey, close to the New York’s LaGuardia Airport runway.
In 1970, after appearing in various TV commercials and local summer stock productions, Travolta landed a role in “Bye Bye Birdie,” a musical comedy. That same year, he began flying lessons. All of the money he earned from acting went toward earning his license. He’s got one when hit 22 years old.
Travolta is certified to fly numerous aircraft of all sizes, including Gulfstream II, Eclipse 500, Boeing 707. Following extensive sessions at Qantas's Sydney headquarters and with Boeing in Seattle, he has also successfully completed 747-400 First Officer simulator training.
Travolta was, incredibly, the first non-test pilot to fly an A380 after it rolled off the production line — something most commercial airline pilots fought to do, but he had fame on his side. Qantas wanted more press, they thought it’s going to be better for the plane, for the airline. So they offered him to fly in the cockpit.
Travolta marked A380 as very pilot friendly, kind of state of the art. “I did fly that A380 you know. I was the first non-test pilot to fly that and I‘m telling you it’s a very easy plane to fly but technically complicated,” he told Reuters in 2007. In October 2008, Qantas launched its Airbus A380 service from Melbourne to Los Angeles and invited Travolta to fly with them as the Ambassador-at-Large, the title he was given by Qantas in 2002.
During the interview in 2013, Travolta mentioned that he flew over 300 hours a year. “I fly almost everyday. I fly from a low of three times a week to a high of five times a week. I am really flying quite a bit.”
Travolta is also a passionate airplane collector. His collection was at some point four and even six aircrafts large. Still, the brightest star of Travolta’s collection was Boeing 707.
Boeing 707 — one of the Boeing’s first long-range aircrafts with a range of more than 10,000 km. It’s commercial service began in 1958. Travolta’s Boeing 707-138B was built in 1964 with Qantas being the first owner. It was primary used for routes from Sydney to Asia and North/South America. Qantas withdrawn the jet in 1968. The aircraft was used by several different owners, including Frank Sinatra.
Only after 30 years from initial Qantas service, Travolta could buy this B707-138B. In December 1998 the jet was registered as N707JT (JT stands for the actor’s initials; every Travolta’s jet has his initials in the registration number). And named “707 Jett Clipper Ella” — after his children “Jett” and “Ella”, Clipper in homage to legendary airline Pan Am, which used “Clipper” in all their aircraft names.
In 2001, Travolta approached Qantas CEO with a proposal to paint his B707 in original Qantas colors. The airline liked the idea and offered him to make a world tour on the repainted 707 around 10 Qantas destinations.
The 9/11 attack changed everything. Travolta and Qantas could only return to the idea in 2002 - making a «Spirit of Friendship» tour to support civil aviation. “I wanted to get back to the spirit, like when I was a kid in the 1960s, when flying was glamorous and fun and wonderful,” Travolta said.
Travolta took part in many charity missions on his Boeing 707. He flew to New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane disaster bringing food and medical supplies. In 2010 he flew to Haiti with a humanitarian mission after the earthquake.
In 2017 John has donated his “Jett Clipper Ella” to the Historical Aircraft Restoration society based in the town of Albion Park, approximately 140 km south of Sydney in Australia.
Travolta is a big fan of private jets too. He became a Bombardier ambassador in 2011 followed by the purchase of one of the Bombardier jets — Challenger 601 that he was able to fly himself.
Bombardier’s Challenger 601 is one of the most popular business jets available on the charter market. The Bombardier Challenger 600 series (600/601/604/605) is a family of business jets designed by Bill Lear and produced first by Canadair until that company was bought by Bombardier Aerospace in 1986.
The Challenger 601 is a twin turbofan large-cabin business jet. Typical configuration features 11 passenger and 2 crew seats. It has a 12,400 km-strong transcontinental range, and is able to complete nonstop flights between almost any two cities in the United States.
But what did Travolta like in this particular aircraft? «It uses Canadair technology, which has evolved to an extraordinary degree since the 1970s, although it’s a 30-year old Learjet design,» explained Travolta during the interview with Business Jet Traveller.
The Gulfstream II (GII) jet always attracted Travolta — he had two such aircrafts. The aircraft was produced between 1966 and 1979. Almost 14 people could reach any destination within its maximum 6600 km reach. In the late 1960s, NASA selected the Gulfstream GII for training astronauts to practice space shuttle landings.
In 1992, one of Travolta’s Gulfstream, registered N552JT was involved in the incident, it’s electrical system went off with the actor on the controls. «One incident in 37 years isn’t bad», Travolta said in the interview. «That happened at Thanksgiving. I had a total electric failure — double generator, no access to my backup alternator, and the batteries were gone. I remembered all my training. I found a hole in the sky, made my way down through it and hovered over Washington D.C., and then landed at [Ronald Reagan] National Airport, near the monument. That’s why you go to school and why you have to take it very seriously.»
In 2012 Travolta donated his second Gulfstream II (N495JT) to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, collocated with the Museum of Aviation at the Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. Travolta donated the airplane in memory of his deceased son, Jett. The airplane is used to educate children about aviation.
Travolta’s collection is famous for many jets, small ones included. Eclipse 500 is a small six-seat business jet. The Eclipse 500 became the first of a new class of Very Light Jets, when it was delivered in late 2006. It’s maximum range — 2500 km. Eclipse 500 was produced until the October 2008. Then it’s manufacturer — Canadian’s Eclipse Aerospace announced its bankruptcy. In 2011 the company announced the new version of the jet — Eclipse 550.
Travolta acquired his Eclipse 500 in 2007. The aircraft was designed by his friend Vern Raburn — the founder of Eclipse Aviation. Travolta was very curious on how the project evolved. When the jet was ready for the market he shared some ideas with Raburn and offered him to promote the airplane. Travolta, of course, became a happy Eclipse 500 owner. «It’s a very interesting cockpit, because it’s completely computerized. It’s more like the Airbus Industries-type cockpit. When it’s actually flying, it has this really solid feeling to it,» told Travolta about his Eclipse 500 experience.
And finally, a military jet! One of John’s most attractive birds was a Yugoslavian-built Soko-Galeb G-2 jet trainer and light ground-attack aircraft carrying a stylized «John» under the canopy and a prominent «J» on the tail. The G-2 was developed during the 1950s. It’s production started in 1965 and ended in 1985 with 248 aircraft delivered. The jet’s maximum speed was 812 km/h. Travolta sold this aircraft in 2013.
Travolta’s passion for aviation has inspired many people. So has his home at Jumbolair Aviation Estates, the nation’s largest and most exclusive fly-in community. Jumbolair is a 550-acre community that’s built specifically for people who want to fly in and out of their homes.
The private runway can be found next to Travolta's house, meaning he can just pop out of the door and hop into one of his five aircrafts. Isn’t that just every plane enthusiast’s dream come true. No doubts, his house reflects his childhood interest.
“I have a tremendous collection of airline memorabilia, from 1932 until about 1975,” Travolta told to Architectural Digest. “I have schedules, menus, maps and paraphernalia the airlines would give for your “comfort on board.” I have silverware, plate settings for different airlines, coffee containers.” Travolta said he designed the house for the jets and access to the world at a moment’s notice.
The residence was designed by architect Dana Smith. Construction of the house lasted two years, but “the plan took, on and off, about six years,” Travolta says. “We moved into the guest quarters for a while to oversee it.”
“It was always John’s dream to have planes in his front yard — to practically be able to pull up to the house — so that when you wanted to go to dinner, all you’d have to do was step out the door, get on the plane and whisk off,” Kelly Preston says of her aviation-mad husband John Travolta.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Travolta is worth $170 million.