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Within the aviation community- John Travolta is as famous for his flying as his movie career. Recently- he told BizJet Advisor about his passion for airplanes- and why Business Aviation is vital for his lifestyle.

Liz Moscrop   |   1st November 2011
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Liz Moscrop Liz Moscrop

Liz Moscrop has written extensively about Business Aviation for several years and specializes in...
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Travolta looks forward to flying his new business jet

Within the aviation community- John Travolta is as famous for his flying as his movie career. Recently- he told BizJet Advisor about his passion for airplanes- and why Business Aviation is vital for his lifestyle.

“You just have to devote yourself to it - just commit.” Pilot and actor John Travolta was talking about his flying- but in truth this is the attitude that has seen him win countless acting and aviation awards- earn licenses to fly 11 aircraft types and transcend a great personal tragedy with dignity and grace.

A long-standing doyenne of the aviation community- this September Travolta became brand ambassador for Bombardier’s Challenger- Learjet- and Global aircraft families. His airborne “embassy” is a Challenger 601- for which he earned a type rating earlier this year.

The Canadian manufacturer approached him for the role because of his advocacy for Corporate Aviation as well as his busy schedule of filming- publicity and charity work. In addition to promoting Bombardier- Travolta is a public face for Breitling and Qantas- two other famous aeronautical names. He flies regularly all over the world- and is keen to encourage young people to fly- believing that attracting youngsters to aviation is different from when he was a child.

Travolta hopes that his passion for flying will inspire young people in areas like the Middle East- India and Southeast Asia to take to the skies as the Business Aviation markets grow in these regions - and with them- the demand for qualified pilots.

“I’m hoping with all the brand endorsements I do that it will make it kind of exciting for [young] people to be interested again- but you never know what the trick is to get them sparked because they’re so insular with their computers that you may have to actually demonstrate the fun-” Travolta expressed. “You may have to take kids up and let them go at the controls of something more sophisticated than something that will make them airsick.

“Where we would have been excited as kids- today’s children ask ‘what’s this?’ - but a quick little Eclipse jet or a Challenger jet where you can really feel the speediness and modernity of it would turn them on.”

Happy Alliance
Bombardier Business Aircraft is delighted with the new alliance it has forged with the star - Steve Ridolfi- president claimed. “We are thrilled to have him as our brand ambassador.”

As an avid pilot Travolta is just as thrilled to get his hands on the controls of an aircraft like his Challenger 601. He said- “It is just elegant: easy to fly. But in [flight] school you have to really pay attention because it’s uniquely built- with unique systems. You need to understand what you are doing - and once you do- it is quite a marvelous machine to execute. I think I’ll get a lot of joy out of it. It is fun. ‘Elegant’ is the right word for it.”

The star is widely renowned for being a history buff- and he has done his research into his new aircraft. The Challenger comes from good stock. The jet is based on a 30-year-old design created by Bill Lear. “It is the same technology. All they’ve done is refined the systems. Otherwise it is similar. The real advancements are in the pilot simplicity for the latter models- the [Challenger] 604 and 605; but it is fun to know the origins of what it was - so you get a better understanding.”

The actor said he shopped for three years and test-flew everything. “The only thing that made sense [to me] was the Challenger 601. It had the same space (if not in some areas larger)- the same speed and was a little longer in range - and it was a third less to operate.”

Treading the Boards
With an acting career spanning 30 years- Travolta has starred in 60 films and has been honored with a number of film awards and award nominations- including two aviation awards (the American Institute of Aeronautics Foundation Award for Excellence in 2003- and the Living Legends Ambassador of Aviation award in 2007.)

Today he has three new films on his horizon: ‘Gotti’- where he portrays John Gotti- the head of the Gambino mafia clan; ‘Savages’- the tale of a drugs gang in Laguna Beach; and ‘Shrapnel’- in which two Bosnian war veterans become embroiled in a deadly clash in the wilderness.

Such a busy life keeps him on the move- which is why the role of brand ambassador appealed. “Business Aviation has always made sense to me in that it offers flexibility- privacy- security and most importantly timesaving – meaning I have the ability to keep up with my busy schedule and have more time for my family- which is very important to me.

“From their point of view it is good in the back [of the aircraft]. It has a very wide cabin- and the seats are very large.”

Travolta ultimately plans to turn his aircraft into a ‘sleeper’ version- which allows everyone to have a bed- since he mostly travels at night. Typical destinations would be Europe or Hawaii - even Australia in his capacity as brand ambassador for Qantas. “These flights are usually nocturnal- so it is very important for me to have it set up as a sleeper with a call button behind the curtains so the galley can be notified [of and needs].”

Travolta likes to keep an eye on the future. Part of his busy schedule this year meant taking himself away for three weeks to obtain his Challenger 601 rating. He explained- “It was 21 days and my baby was only five months old at that time; it was not the ideal thing- but I knew that that investment was going to give us an investment for the next 20 years.”

Indeed- he had his previous aircraft- a Gulfstream GII for 18 years. He bought it when his eldest son was born. Sadly Jett Travolta suffered from Kawasaki Disease- and died suddenly in 2009 of a seizure. To help cope with the enormous loss- the family has set up a charity in his honor- “The Jett Travolta Foundation-” which particularly helps disadvantaged children – although not exclusively so.

“The remit is very widespread-” Travolta outlined. “I don’t like limiting donations to what I feel would help: Children’s education- children’s medical needs- disabled children- autistic children- schools and hospitals - we run the gamut. We’ve had as many different donations as we’ve had the opportunity - we’re feeling good about that.”

One of the charity’s areas of focus is research into seizures- and Travolta is working with a company that may have made some breakthroughs in the arena. He will talk more publicly about that when he has more news. In the meantime his time is taken up with filming- as well as at least four-five days every year in re-currency training for each of his licenses.

“It’s quite a bit of work-” he concluded- “but I don’t mind. I enjoy it – it keeps me safe.”

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