Well, well, Illawarra, looks like we’ve got a special visitor set to make his way to the South Coast sometime in the (as yet undisclosed) future with an extraordinary gift in tow.
Movie megastar John Travolta surprised everyone when he announced on Saturday, seemingly out of the blue, that he would donate his prized Boeing 707 aircraft to HARS – the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society – based at Albion Park airport.
Travolta, a qualified pilot and Qantas ambassador, has said he hopes to be part of the crew to fly the vintage passenger jet from his Florida home to the Illawarra, however the Mercury has learned it’s all-but-certain that Travolta will come to the region, with HARS president Bob De La Hunty saying his presence was part of the deal.
“Right from the outset he was delighted that we’d be interested in preserving it and we said it’s one condition that he in fact be with the aircraft,” Mr De La Hunty told the Mercury on Sunday.
“He’s certainly jumped at that opportunity … so we’ll work around his movie scheduling and make sure that’s a reality. We don’t expect it to arrive here without him on board.’’
To say the news has stunned and delighted the region would be an understatement.
If the Mercury’s Facebook feed is anything to go by, thousands are expected to turn up to be part of the ‘Wollongong welcome wagon’ that will greet the Saturday Night Fever star when he touches down.
Hundreds of Mercury readers took to social media across the weekend to share their thoughts following Saturday’s announcement.
“John Travolta literally just wrote the words Oak Flats. Am living for this,” Rohan Stephens said of the actor’s statement, which was released online.
“Most random news ever,” said Grant Cresswell, while Alan Harding had Grease in mind when he said Travolta should “fly in with Olivia [Newton-John] in the co-pilot seat”.
“My chance to meet Danny Zuko...or maybe dress up in a pair of white flares dancing across the tarmac to night fever lol,” Melissa Armstrong said.
“They need a full Qantas set. We need a 717, 737 and a 767,” Craig Andrews said.
The Boeing 707 joins the Qantas 747-400 – known as the City of Canberra – at HARS. Thousands of spectators watched the 747’s arrival in March 2015.
The 707’s star power – its links with Travolta and previous owner, singer Frank Sinatra – should see it pull a similar crowd when it eventually touches down.
Beyond it’s initial delivery, what will no doubt go down as one of the biggest days on the South Coast in recent history, the plane’s presence in the Illawarra is a massive coup for the HARS committee that promises to give the ever-expanding society yet another feather in its impressive cap of acquisitions.
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