Whenever we think of personal jets and celebrities, John Travolta immediately pops to mind. And rightly so, the famous actor owns a fleet of no less than 11 personal aircraft. His latest purchase was the Bombardier Challenger 601. With a home airport, Travolta has no trouble finding parking space. Airport, jets, all Travolta is missing now is his own airline.
John Travolta’s fascination with airplanes began when he was a young boy. His mother and sisters traveled often, and John would jealously watch them board airplanes while he had to remain at home. His family lived below the flight path for LaGuardia Airport, and John often sat outside and watched the planes passing overhead. Little did he know that someday he would be flying such planes himself.
Travolta took his first plane ride when he was eight years old. From that trip on, he was hooked on flying. His father, Salvatore Travolta, always wanted to encourage his children to pursue their interests, so he agreed to help his young son build his own airplane.
This contraption, built of boards and car generators, was never meant to fly. Travolta’s hope was to be able to drive it around the neighborhood. To that end, he recruited neighbor girls in Brownie uniforms and Barbie high heels to be his flight attendants. The airplane never was finished, but that didn’t curb his enthusiasm at all.
In the late 1960s, Travolta started appearing in television commercials and summer stock productions. He used the money he earned to pay for flying lessons. As his talent grew, he was given bigger roles. With the money he earned, he was able to afford more flying lessons.
By the time he was 19 he was ready to solo. Due to a lack of confidence, however, Travolta kept putting off that first solo flight. It was his instructor, United Airlines pilot Tom Fanta, who convinced him that he was ready. In 1974, at the age of 23, Travolta received his pilot’s license.
Travolta’s first plane was a single engine, two-seater Ercoupe. His fleet of aircraft has grown substantially over the years, as has his list of flight qualifications. His qualifications as a captain include the Gulfsteam, Lear 24 and a number of other aircraft. As a first officer, he is qualified to fly Boeing 707s and 747s. He also owns two ultralights, a Douglas DC-3, a Constellation and a JetStar 731.
In 2011, Travolta was named the Business Aircraft Brand Ambassador for Bombadier and purchased his eleventh plane, the Bombadier Challenger 601. He is also the Quantas Ambassador and was awarded the Ambassador of Aviation award by Airport Journals.
Travolta’s world now revolves as much around flying as it does around acting. His home is in Jumbolair Aviation Estates, near Ocala, Florida. It is the nation’s most exclusive fly-in community. His 6400 square foot home, decorated with airline memorabilia of all sorts, boasts an airstrip and jetway so he can get to his planes without having to step outside.
He will often fly himself to movie locations or publicity appearances in order to save time. He feels that a more important use of his skills, however, is to bring needed supplies to disaster victims. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Travolta flew supplies to victims in New Orleans, and in 2010 he used his own plane to bring needed help to victims of the Haiti earthquake.
John Travolta looks back with pride at how he has been able to turn a childhood dream into a reality and now can fly those planes he used to watch as a child.