When someone mentions John Travolta you may think of Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter, Danny Zuko from Grease, Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever, and the list goes on. But what most people don't think of is John Travolta, Pilot Extraordinaire.
Born on February 18, 1954, John Travolta is an actor, director, film producer, dancer, singer, author, and private pilot.
In 1970, at the age of 16, he had his first flight in an airplane. His love for flying came out in 1997 when he penned the book Propeller One-Way Night Coach, the story of a young boy's first flight.
Since those early days, John has constantly added to his aviation knowledge and type ratings. His private pilot ratings as of August, 2018 from the FAA Certificated Airmen Database are as follows:
P/ASEL (Private Airplane Single Engine Land)
P/AMEL (Private Airplane Multi-Engine Land)
P/INSTA (Private Instrument Airplane)
P/B-707 (Boeing 707)
P/B-720 (Boeing 720)
P/CE-500 (Cessna 500)
P/CL-600 (Bombardier Challenger 600)
P/EA-500S (Eclipse 500)
P/G-1159 (Gulfstream II)
P/HS-125 (British Aerospace 125)
This continuous learning throughout his piloting career has served him well. The actor owns a Gulfstream II luxury jet and has had a DC3 Dakota airliner, Learjet, and even a Lockheed Constellation. The crown jewel of his air force, however, is his 1964 Boeing 707-138B (painted in its original '60s Qantas livery for a recent round-the-world goodwill tour), outfitted with every amenity possible: bedrooms, TV/ recreation room, three dining areas, office space and crew quarters. The plane, he says, reflects "my obsession with re-creating the comfort of another era."
Travolta is fully qualified to fly his 707 and earned his wings as a first officer on the Boeing 747 jumbo jet in 2002. Relief pilots for long treks accompany him, but every takeoff and landing is in his hands. "When I'm flying," he says, "I can't imagine being in a better place."
As a Qantas Airways Global Goodwill "Ambassador-at-Large", Travolta has flown his original Qantas 707, named Jett Clipper Ella, to 13 cities in 10 countries during the "Spirit of Friendship" global tour in July/August 2002 to promote civil aviation following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. For Qantas' 60th anniversary, he flew Qantas competition winners on the 707 for a one-hour flight.
So where does a person keep all of his planes? Why, at his home of course.
Travolta found a great piece of land in Ocala, Florida at Jumbolair (formerly Grayston) airport (17FL) that was big enough to fit his 707 airplane. All he had to do was add a large enough taxiway to get his plane to his house.
According to his wife, Kelly Preston, they designed their house around jet planes because "he wanted to reach the world in a short time." She also said "John always dreamed of having planes in the front yard. When you want to go to dinner, all you have to do is open the door and step out."
With his house complete and planes outside, Travolta turned towards helping people in need. John flew the 707 to New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane disaster bringing doctors, food, and medical supplies, and in 2010, again flew the 707, this time to Haiti after a devastating earthquake, carrying supplies, doctors and volunteers.
In May 2017, John's iconic Boeing 707 in Qantas livery was donated to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) in Albion Park, approximately 140km south of Sydney, Australia. It will first be prepared for safe delivery and flown over to Australia with John Travolta at the controls sometime in 2018.
John Travolta's pilot career is one many of us can aspire to. Multiple ratings, multiple aircraft, global adventures, sharing his love of flying, and helping those in need. The world has noticed. John has received 2 prestigious aviation awards: in 2003 the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Award for Excellence for his efforts to promote commercial flying, and in 2007 The Living Legends Ambassador of Aviation award. To this day, he continues to act as the award show's official ambassador.
Our hats are off to you Mr. Travolta. Keep up the good work and keep the dirty side down!