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John Travolta's donated plane lashed by Hurricane Irma as Illawarra airworthiness engineers flee Georgia

William Verity, Tuesday September 12, 2017 - 17:31 EST
Audience submitted image
Frank Bowden and Peter Elliott inspect the Boeing 707 in Georgia. - Audience submitted

Hurricane conditions in Georgia have forced engineers from the Illawarra to cut short a trip to inspect John Travolta's Boeing 707, which he donated to a NSW aircraft museum in May.

It is not known whether Hurricane Irma has damaged the Hollywood star's private plane, registration 707JT, which he .

Photographer Andy Zakeli, who is in the United States documenting the trip, said the state of Georgia was in lockdown, so further work on the plane was impossible.

"It's all been a blur. In the light of what's been happening with the hurricane in the southern states, I've lost track of how long I've been here," Mr Zakeli said.

"The plane is probably currently getting flooded and smashed with rain, but I am hoping that it's okay."

Mr Zakeli had to leave Georgia on Saturday after a mandatory evacuation was ordered for all those with nowhere to stay.

HARS engineers Frank Bowden and Peter Elliott drove to Dallas, where they caught a flight to Australia and are due to arrive home today.

Travolta himself was shooting a movie and not present at Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, where the plane has been stored since December.

Plane arrival unlikely for a year

HARS president Bob De La Hunty said early indications showed the plane would need months of work before it could be flown to its new home.

"There is a whole lot of work that we will need to do and it would be inappropriate to rush it," he said.

"We want to spend a lot of energy and time on this, and we want to organise a major arrival to the Illawarra, with John Travolta, and that will mean fitting in with his movie schedule."

Hopes that the plane may arrive this year, or early next year, appear to be slim as there are early plans to exhibit the plane at the largest air show in the world at Oshkosh in Wisconsin.

"This is a show where 12,000 planes gather and it may be prudent to take the plane there before we fly it to Australia," Mr De La Hunty said.

Mr De La Hunty first met Travolta in 2009 when they flew a 1955 Super Constellation from Sydney along the coast of NSW.

"We share a mutual respect for old airplanes and flying, and at that stage we were keen to suggest to him that if he ever wanted to part with his Boeing 707 we would be very interested in it," Mr De La Hunty said.

The aircraft is already a part of Australian history, being part of Qantas's first delivery of jet aircraft to its fleet in 1964, which replaced Lockheed Constellations on long-distance flights.


© ABC 2017

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