'The Lisa Marie': Elvis Presley's Convair 880 Jet Airplane
Source: Elvis Australia
February 21, 2008
Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis Articles, Elvis Biography, By David Troedson
On April 17, 1975 Elvis bought a Convair 880 Jet, recently taken out of service by Delta Airlines, for the then-substantial sum of $250,000. After refurbishing, the total exceeded $600,000.
He immediately rechristened it the Lisa Marie.
Earlier Elvis had paid a $75,000 deposit on a Boeing 707 but the deal fell through. The previous owner had been Robert Vesco, the fugitive financier who had fled to South America after allegedly embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from international investment firms. Buying his plane would involve some complicated wrangling with the IRS. And Elvis was warned about another complication: If the plane ever landed in any of the countries Vesco was establishing a base in, there was every reason to believe that he might try to seize it.
The Convair 880 had a clean record and would have no problem flying to any country around the globe.
So that's the plane Elvis purchased.
The plane was in a hangar at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, and for months Elvis took great pleasure in flying friends out to check on progress as the interior of the plane was refurbished to his very specific design requirements (he bought another plane to make those trips - a smaller Lockheed JetStar). Elvis wanted a seating area, a conference room, and a private bedroom on the plane (with space for an in-flight reading library). He picked fabrics, decided on color schemes, chose the on-board audio-visual system, and even Ok'd the gold fixtures in the bathrooms (he counted heavily on some aesthetic input from Priscilla, too).
Elvis was especially excited about the fact that the same design team had previously customized Air Force One. The craft slowly came together as an airworthy mix of modem function and Graceland elegance.
Close in size to a 707, the Lisa Marie was customized with plush sleeping quarters, a penthouse bedroom with a custom-made queen size bed, an executive bathroom with gold faucets and a gold washbasin, a videotape system linked to four TVs and a stereo system with fifty-two speakers, and a conference room finished in teak.
It could hold a maximum of 29 people, but usually there would be about eight or 10. When the final paint job was applied to the exterior, there was a prominent 'TCB' logo on the tail.
Elvis - Other Airplanes and the first flight of The Lisa Marie 1975
April 17, Elvis buys an ex Delta Airlines Convair 880 Jet for $250,000.
July, While on tour, Elvis decided to present the Colonel with his own airplane, a Grumman Gulfstream G-1, which he bought sight unseen. Elvis had it delivered to the Colonel in Vegas on July 26, but the Colonel didn't really take it the way that Elvis had hoped. 'You've got to be kidding', was his first response. And then he turned it down on the grounds that he didn't need a plane and couldn't afford one.
August 3, Elvis leases a Fairchild F-27 aircraft at $13,000 a month.
When the dog is too ill to travel on to the West Boylston veterinary hospital where it is scheduled to be treated, the whole party remains at the Ritz for two days before continuing.
August 15, Elvis cancels the lease on the Fairchild F-27 and buys an Aero Jet Commander for $508,000.
August 27, Elvis enters into an agreement with Omni Aircraft Sales, who will sell the Gulfstream G-1 and Jet Commander that he purchased two weeks earlier.
September 2, Elvis buys a Lockheed JetStar aircraft for $899,702.60
October 8, Milo High, Elvis' personal pilot takes Elvis and five others on a brief one-hour flight in Elvis newly purchased Lockheed JetStar aircraft.
October 9, Milo High flies Elvis and eight others to Dallas and back.
October 21, Milo High flies Elvis' aunt, Delta Biggs, and Mike McGregor to Boston to pick up Elvis' chow, Getlow.
Getlow has been recuperating at the New England Institute for Comparative Medicine veterinary hospital in West Boylston for almost three months.
November 10, The Lisa Marie is delivered to Memphis late in the evening, joining the JetStar and a 1966 Dessault-Falcon, which Elvis has bought for an investment.
Above, The Lisa Marie, the newest craft in Elvis Presley's small air fleet, at Memphis International Airport on November 12, 1975, getting final touches before being put to use. Beside it is the JetStar. (Larger image)
November 27, Ron Strauss takes Elvis on his first real flight in The Lisa Marie, traveling Las Vegas.
December 25, In the evening Elvis takes everyone up in The Lisa Marie.
July 13, 1976 - Elvis trades the Dessault-Falcon airplane, which he purchased in late 1975 as an investnent, for a second Lockheed JetStar. The first JetStar aircraft will become the center of a long, drawn-out FBI investigation into what appears to be a sophisticated swindle perpetrated on Elvis and Vernon involving the leasing and refurbishing of the aircraft. The case is not concluded until after Elvis' death.
June 29, 1976 - Elvis and Linda Thompson havs just arrived in Richmond, Vz - From the book Elvis The Concert Years
Elwood David was the Captain and pilot of The Lisa Marie. Accompanying him in the cockpit was another pilot, Ron Strauss, and a flight engineer, Jim Manny. Milo High was the pilot of Elvis' 'Hound Dog II' JetStar plane.
After Elvis' death, Captain Elwood David flew to California to pick up Elvis' ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie and the actor George Hamilton, a long-time friend of Elvis. He flew them back to California after the funeral, and, in what would be his last flight on the Lisa Marie, returned the plane to Memphis.
Elvis' father, Vernon, sold the plane in 1978 and it changed hands a couple of times. When Graceland opened up to the public in 1982, EPE worked with the owners to try and bring the plane home to Memphis. In 1984, the Lisa Marie was returned to Graceland. It has remained as one of the most popular attractions ever since.
View larger photos of the Lisa Marie (Large 400K File size)
The Lisa Marie at Memphis International Airport on November 12, 1975
Lisa Marie at the controls of Elvis Presley' Lisa Marie Jet
Elvis Presley's JetStar Airplane
Elvis Boarding and taking off in The Lisa Marie 1976-1977
Original Newspaper Articles from 1975
The Convair 880 was a jet airliner produced by the Convair division of General Dynamics. It was designed to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 by being smaller, faster and safer, a niche that failed to create demand. Only 65 880s were produced over the lifetime of the production run from 1959 to 1962, and General Dynamics eventually withdrew from the airliner market after considering the 880 project a failure. Only 9 of these aircraft are left in the world, none of them is airworthy and only one is preserved properly, Elvis Presley's Lisa Marie.
The Lisa Marie
Crew: Required a crew of four (Elvis always used the same crew).
Seating capacity: 28 (after he customized the plane)
Tower call name: '880 Echo Pappa'
Nickname: "Hound Dog One"
Elvis called the plane: 'The Pride of Elvis Presley Airways' and his 'Flying Graceland'.
Range: 3,000 miles
Horsepower: 44,800 lbs. thrust
Engines: Four General Electric CJ-805-3 Pod Mount Jets
Length: 129' 4"
Tail height from ground: 36' 3"
Weight: 87,000 lbs.
Maximum weight: 184,000 lbs.
Cruising speed: 615 M.P.H.
Maximum altitude: 41,000 feet
Fuel capacity: 10,770 gallons
Fuel consumption: 1,700 gallons per hour; -- take off: 2,200 gallons
Operating cost for 1976: $404,000
Maiden flight: January 27, 1959
Number of aircrafts built: 65
The JetStar originated as a private project within Lockheed, with an eye to winning a USAF requirement that was later dropped due to budget cuts. Lockheed decided to continue the project on their own for the business market. Noise regulations in the United States and high fuel consumption led to the development of the 731 JetStar, a modification program which added new Garrett AiResearch TFE731 turbofan engines and redesigned external fuel tanks to original JetStars. The 731 JetStar modification program was so successful that Lockheed produced 40 new JetStars, designated the JetStar II, from 1976 through 1979. The JetStar IIs were factory new aircraft with the turbofan engines and revised external fuel tanks. Both 731 JetStars and JetStar IIs have greatly increased range, reduced noise, and better runway performance compared to the original JetStars.
JetStar production totaled 204 aircraft by final delivery in 1978. Most original JetStars have been retired, but many 731 JetStars and JetStar IIs are still flying in various roles. A JetStar that was owned by Elvis Presley in his later years, named Hound Dog II, is on display at Graceland.
Maiden flight: 4 September 1957
Produced: 1957 - 1978
Number of aircrafts built: 204
Both jets were sold by the family after the death of Elvis, but later they were bought back and parked in Graceland, Memphis Tennessee.
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