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May 29, 2017

Illawarra airport to get another Qantas jet, John Travolta's 707!

A tiny aerodrome south of Sydney is getting an early model 707 to go with its Qantas 747

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The historic Qantas V-jet destined to call Wollongong home

An original ‘hot rod’ version of the Qantas 707, the short fuselage -138B ‘V Jet’ is being donated by its owner movie star John Travolta to the HARS Museum at Albion Park airport, near Wollongong south of Sydney.

Just when it will be restored to safe condition and flown from the US to the tiny airport isn’t yet known, but Mr Travolta, who personally flew the jet for many years, will be on board when it arrives.

It will be a spectacle to equal the arrival of the first Qantas 747-400, VH-OJA, at the ‘tight’ pocket sized airport in March 2015, on its donation flight to the home of HARS the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society. HARS also owns a restored Super Constellation similar to those that were the airline’s long distance propeller engined flag carriers in the 50s when most travel between Australia and the world sailed on ships that took weeks to reach ports in America, Europe and the UK. The early Boeing 707s, and their alternative, the Douglas DC-8s, brought the age of the great ocean liners to a rapid end by the start of the 1960s.

The surprise donation by John Travolta was announced early on the weekend, and this detailed report in The Western Advocate had it in print and online before other better known media.

The 707-138s that Qantas first utilised had a shorter than standard 707 fuselage to improve the power to weight ratio of jets flying out of sub-jet standard runways, starting with Nadi in Fiji. That enhanced performance was further improved when turbo-fan engines replaced the original turbo-jet designs.

This was how legions of planespotters, or av geeks, or just those smitten by the sight of large jets arriving at aerodromes better known for hosting small aircraft, witnessed the landing of VH-OJA more than two years ago.

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12 thoughts on “Illawarra airport to get another Qantas jet, John Travolta’s 707!

  1. endeavour.paul@gmail.com

    The 747-400 made it’s final flight to Illawarra, being too big to ever take off from the aerodrome.
    I take it that the 707 will have no such problem as John Travolta mentioned one of his reasons for donating to HARS is that the plane will be able to continue flying.
    Great work HARS in securing such important planes to display and fly.
    What is the smallest that can’t take off from Illawarra and what is the largest that can?

    1. Dan Dair

      I imagine that if they stripped-out the B747 & it had minimal fuel, it could get out of Illawarra, if they really needed it to.?
      (maybe they’d have to cut-down a couple of trees (or buildings) near the end of the runway too.???)
      They did something similar about 5? years ago in the USA, with a C5 Galaxy which landed at a small regional airport, instead of the big military base about 25kms away.!!!
      Actually keeping these things flying, not just ‘in flying condition’ is a fantastic achievement IMO.

      Excellent final question,
      but also, is this a question about aircraft in general or is it specific to their collection.?

      1. endeavour.paul@gmail.com

        Aircraft in general, Dan.
        I am curious as to what HARS can and can’t obtain in the future and, if so, what can or can’t fly once there.

      2. ghostwhowalksnz

        Big planes like the galaxy and C-17 are usually designed to takeoff from ‘shorter’ strips in light condition.
        A similar effort is underway in NZ bring back old planes ( or similar models) from the ones that flew for Air New Zealand ( and its domestic arm, NAC)
        He found an ex Air NZ DC-8 abandoned at Manaus, Brazil, they tracked down a early 737 in South Carolina but it was scrapped soon after, but there is another flying in Quebec, a 747 is in the Arizona desert. hes also got his eye on a DC10 and Lockheed Electra
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/91684385/On-the-hunt-for-New-Zealands-lost-and-forgotten-airliners

  2. comet

    How often do you get to see a 707 in flight?

    For anyone under the age of 30, this would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And for most of us, it will be the last time we see a 707 in the air. That’s pretty special.

  3. Dan Dair

    FlyLo,
    I remembered this from earlier in the month.!!!

    “I am waiting for airlines to bring back the 707!
    I would be first in line for a ticket to experience again the noise and thrill of flying!”

    If you want to experience the B707 all over again…..
    Just get on a B737.!!!
    The current-longest model is about the same length as the original B720, which was effectively a undersized 707. And of course the 73’s fuselage is still vintage B707.!
    The real difficulty IMO, would be finding a current B737 which had a seating-layout as generous as a 1960’s 707.?

    Of course, in none of that works for you, you could always ask John Travolta for a go in his.????

    Now, you won’t have to ask him or go to the USA,
    because it’s coming to you.!!!

    1. Low Flying

      I’ve got the popcorn out for this one! I’ll definitely be watching on the day of arrival.
      I was lucky to have the fantastic experience of flying the 707-347 in CAF service from 1988-1995, even landing it at Richmond, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth on global training flights. The new jets do it more efficiently, of course, but the old 7-oh was satisfying to fly, and one could argue it was easier for the the pilot to be more “in the loop”, but, hey, progress, whatever….

    2. FlyLo

      I’ve been in Berlin and enjoyed travelling on the historic buses which run regularly on a particularly scenic bus route (218) through the Grunewald forest along the shore of lake Wannsee. These buses are put on as part of the ‘regular’ bus service. There are many historic trains operating around the world. Melbourne has its restaurant trams. Why can’t airlines do something similar? Have an ‘Orient Express’ style service in the air – even if it is just for joy flights. I would be happy to pay to have a ride on a 707. The takeoff and landing would be a sufficient thrill for me.

      Dan Dair, if I couldn’t travel on a 707, I’d prefer a 727 over a 737 or if it must be a 737, I’d like the incredibly noisy 100 series or at the very least, the 200 series which Ryanair were still operating in the late 1990’s (I remember flying on a 737-200 from London Stansted to Stockholm Vasteras). Once the CFM56 turbofans were slung under the wings of the 300, 400 and 500 series, the early 1960’s heritage of the 737 disappeared for me!

      As for 707 services, I grew up in Perth and so they were a familiar aircraft to me. Qantas operated a service from Johannesburg via Mauritius in the early 1970’s. I remember Cathay Pacific advertising how ‘quiet’ its 707’s were when they replaced the Convair CV880M aircraft on the Hong Kong Perth route. The Convair was properly noisy!

      Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines regularly operated 707 services to Perth until the late 1970’s. Cathay then moved to the Lockheed Tri-star briefly and Singapore Airlines to the DC10-30 until both airlines replaced these services with 747-200’s.

      1. Mack

        I’m also an old airliner tragic too, but I don’t think anyone living under a runway approach or departure path would welcome 707s or 727s. Young folk in Marrickville today would have trouble believing just how astonishingly loud and dirty a flock of JT3Cs passing nearby could be. The crockery & picture frames would start rattling about 30 seconds before the aircraft even got overhead, then your teeth would start to loosen. Even with the later turbofans, 1960s era jetliners are banned from most city airports due to noise.
        A380s are more like passing air condtioners in comparison. As the old steam train enthusiasts would say nostalgically, “There’s one thing you got with the old equipment that you just don’t get these days……..bloody filthy”

      2. ghostwhowalksnz

        Its probably the high cost of old jet aircraft. Where I live there are scenic trips , in summer, on DC3s and Catalinas

  4. comet

    I don’t know if there are any guarantees this aircraft will fly again after it reaches Wollongong.

    Even in John Travolta’s hands, with all his resources, it fell into disrepair. Who knows. But it’s certainly not an every day event, so it would be worth making the trip to the Gong for the 707’s arrival. You never know when the last flight of a 707 into Australia might be.

    1. Dan Dair

      Maybe he just got bored with it.?
      Keeping an private aircraft is hard-work & an expensive hobby.
      Keeping a vintage airliner as your private aircraft is all of that & in spades.?

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