Hollywood star John Travolta has confirmed he’ll be on board the Boeing 707 aircraft he’s donating to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS).
HARS president Bob De La Hunty had flagged the plane wouldn’t arrive without Travolta – and the movie megastar this week locked in his special appearance at the Illawarra Regional Airport.
Travolta and his vintage passenger jet will touch down at the airport some time in 2018 – the exact date is yet to be determined, but it is expected to be towards the tail-end of the year.
Mr De La Hunty told the Mercury on Thursday it was “fully intended” Travolta would be on the plane when it arrived on Australian soil from the United States.
“We wouldn’t see it as being in our interest if we didn’t bring him with us, so it’s certainly the case,” he said.
Mr De La Hunty said Travolta had indicated he would stay “quite some time” and was keen to go flying in “Connie”, the society’s Super Constellation aircraft, while in town.
Travolta revealed he had gifted the ex-Qantas plane – which bears the unique registration 707JT – to HARS in a shock announcement, made via social media, on May 27.
At the time, Travolta – a qualified pilot and Qantas ambassador – said the plane needed “a lot of work to be restored to a safe flying state”.
“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,” he said in his announcement.
Mr De La Hunty said the project would cost more than the initial $1 million estimate and there were “still many challenges and obstacles”.
“We’ve only just been given a reasonable picture of what works need to be done with the aeroplane, so we’re just evaluating all that at the moment,” he said.
“It’s many millions of dollars. We didn’t expect anything less, but now that we know what we need to find we can break it down and work with the people who have shown interest in what we’re doing.”
HARS engineers have been in the US and held talks with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mr De La Hunty said the ongoing engineering discussions meant no firm arrival date could be given.
The “maintenance package” alone – when it begins – would take 120 days, he said.