Top celebrities, super-rich business tycoons and heads of state travel in style when they fly. Not for them the hassles of airline travel: They fly in private jets fitted with luxurious cabins to make their flights relaxing, pleasant and productive. Sometimes, the especially rich and famous buy airliners of their very own to make sure that every flight is memorable.
Donald Trump’s Boeing 727-23
Originally operated by American Airlines, this 1968-vintage Boeing 727-100-series jet was bought by D.J. Aerospace, one of Donald Trump’s companies, for use as the real estate tycoon’s personal jet. Reconfigured to hold 23 in luxurious comfort, with soft pale-leather armchairs, gold-plated seatbelt buckles, oil paintings, Waterford-crystal lamps, the 727 flies with a flight attendant to make sure those onboard receive top-class service. The tail number VP-BDJ shows the aircraft is registered in Bermuda, and the “DJ” in the registration stands for “Donald John,” Trump’s first names. The “Trump” logo on the side is 30 feet long and four feet high and is made of 23-carat gold leaf.
The Boeing 767-33A of Roman Abramovich
Said to be Russia’s richest man, Roman Abramovich made his money mainly during the privatization of Russia’s oil industry and from a private investment company called Millhouse Capital. However, he is possibly best-known outside Russia as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, and his private Boeing 767-33A is a common site at Luton Airport some 40 miles north of London, where Abramovich spends much of his time. The 767’s sleek but understated paint job belies an interior reportedly outfitted with chestnut and decorated with gold. Although the 767-300ER makes a huge private jet, Abramovich may be upgrading soon to something much larger: he is widely reported as being the customer for an Airbus A380 superjumbo that Airbus recently said had been ordered privately.
The Sultan of Brunei’s Boeing 747-430
The head of state of the tiny, oil-rich nation of Brunei on the island of Borneo, the Sultan is reputedly the richest monarch in the world. The Sultan bought the aircraft brand-new for $100 million or more using Lufthansa as a conduit, hence the -30, which is Boeing’s customer code for the German airline. Then he had it fitted with a special interior and features such as washbasins of solid-gold and Lalique crystal at an additional cost of some $120 million. The 747-400 is the Sultan of Brunei’s largest aircraft, but His Majesty the Sultan’s Flight also operates several other VVIP widebody jets, among them two Airbus A340s and a 767.
Jimmy Buffett’s Grumman HU-16 Albatross
Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, known for extolling an island-escapism lifestyle in his music and businesses, owns this former military Grumman HU-16 Albatross amphibian aircraft, which can be operated from water or land. Buffett named the aircraft “The Hemisphere Dancer.” While carrying Buffett and U2’s singer Bono in Jamaica in 1996, it was shot at by local police, who suspected it of carrying drugs. Nobody on board was hurt, but the plane received some bullet holes. Buffett memorialized the incident in a song he titled “Jamaica Mistaica.”
Air Force One
At present the aircraft used to transport President George W. Bush on important state and domestic visits, Air Force One is the property of the United States Government and is the official presidential aircraft — along with several back-up aircraft (including a Boeing 757) used to fly other members of the president’s cabinet and staff and members of the press on state visits. Known as the VC-25A in U.S. Air Force service, Air Force One is a Boeing 747-200B that has been heavily modified with secure communications systems, electronic equipment, a self-contained baggage loader, front and aft air-stairs, and given the ability to refuel in-flight. Along with the other aircraft of the presidential flight, Air Force One is flown and maintained by the specially detailed crews of the Presidential Airlift Group, part of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Here, Air Force One is seen flying over Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Mark Cuban’s Boeing 767-277
This Boeing 767-200, which originally was operated by Australia’s Ansett Airlines but now is registered N767MW, is owned by a company called MLW Aviation and operated by hush-hush charter operator Pace Airlines on behalf of billionaire Mark Cuban and his sports team. Cuban, who made his fortune in personal computers and stock ownership, owns the Dallas Mavericks NBA professional basketball team and reportedly has had custom-made seats installed on the aircraft that are large enough to accommodate the team’s very tall players.
Elvis Presley’s Convair 880
Although he owned other aircraft, Elvis bought his own personal jet airliner, a former Delta Air Lines Convair CV.880, in 1975 for the then-substantial sum of $250,000. He named it “Lisa Marie” after his daughter. Presley had the interior of the Convair 880 customized with 28 seats instead of the 110 seats with which the type was usually fitted in airline service. He also had the tail of the now-preserved jet painted with his personal “TCB” logo, which stands for “Takin’ Care of Business.” By the end of 2005, “Lisa Marie” was one of only nine CV.880s that remained, out of 65 originally built.
Bill Gates’ Bombardier BD-700 Global Express
Owned by a Washington state-based company called Challenger Administration LLC on Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates’ behalf, this Bombardier BD-700-1A10 Global Express was built in 1999. It is rumored that the initials “WM” in the N887WM tail number stand for “William” and “Mary,” the first names of Gates’ parents. Bombardier’s top-of-the-line business jet, the Global Express can carry eight people far above the weather at a cruising altitude of 51,000 feet for a distance of 6,500 nautical miles — a range that permits nonstop Tokyo-New York or Los Angeles-Moscow flights.
Wayne Huizenga’s de Havilland Canada DHC-6-320 Twin Otter
Although Blockbuster founder and Miami Dolphins pro football team owner Wayne Huizenga also owns a 737-700 Boeing Business Jet painted in his team’s colors, his Twin Otter seaplane is especially interesting. Bearing the tail number N300WH and Miami Dolphins colors, the aircraft appears in a seaplane chase scene in the new version of the James Bond film “Casino Royale.” One of the most rugged and reliable utility transport aircraft ever built, the unpressurized Twin Otter carries up to 19 people and can take off and land from rough strips as short as 100 yards. Many Twin Otters were fitted with skis or floats for operation in snow or from water. De Havilland Canada — now Bombardier — stopped manufacturing the Twin Otter in 1988 after building more than 840. But the type has proved so irreplaceable throughout the world — including the Antarctic — that a company called Viking Air bought the production rights from Bombardier and is planning to restart production at an assembly line at Calgary, Alberta in December.
Cessna 525B CJ3 Citation Jet Like Harrison Ford’s
This isn’t movie star Harrison Ford’s own plane, but he owns a Cessna CJ3 Citation Jet just like it. Unveiled in 2002, the CJ3 carries six people in comfort for some 1,900 nautical miles. Ford is a keen pilot and pilots his own aircraft. Ford is considered so good a pilot that the FAA asked him to be its spokesman to appear on posters and publicity materials for the runway incursion awareness and prevention campaign that the agency began in 2001. The CJ3 in this picture was built in 2005 and is registered to a company called Ross Aviation, based in Cortland, Ohio.