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The Starship & Caesar's Chariot

The Starship
Travelling was always considered a major chore by Zeppelin. Neither Jimmy Page nor Peter Grant were particularly fond of flying, and Bonham was often known to require a drink or two to calm his nerves before taking off. In a country the size of America, air travel was a necessity, and so some sort of accomodations had to be made.

Beginning with the 1972 U.S. tour, the band traveled in a small private Falcon Jet hired by Grant. Unfortunately, these aircraft are comparatively light and susceptible to air turbulence. After performing a show at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium on June 2, 1973, Zeppelin encountered bad turbulence on a flight back to Los Angeles. This unnerving incident persuaded Grant that if they were going to have to fly, they would do it in as much style, comfort and safety as possible-regardless of cost ($30,000 for the remainder of the 1973 US Tour).

The Starship, N7201U (CN: 17907), was the first Boeing 720-022 built. It was delivered to United Airlines on Oct. 05, 1960 and then purchased on Jan. 15, 1973 by Contemporary Entertainment for $750,000. Owner Ward Sylvester, manager of performer Bobby Sherman, spent another $750,000 renovating the interior of The Starship.

Inside, the main cabin contained seats and tables, revolving arm chairs, a 30-foot long couch running along the right hand side of the plane opposite the bar, a television set and video cassette player; an electronic organ was built into the bar. At the rear of the plane were two back rooms, one a den with a low couch and pillows on the floor, the other a bedroom, complete with a white fur bedspread and shower room.

The Starship was even staffed by two stewardesses, Susie, and attractive eighteen-year old blonde, and Bianca, a twenty-two year old with a dark complexion and a sense of humor.

The Starship was again used throughout the entire 1975 U.S. tour (at a cost of $2,500 per hour or $5 per mile - whichever came higher), by which time Bonzo liked to occupy the co-pilot's seat. "He flew us all the way from New York to L.A. once," Peter Grant told a startled fellow traveler on one tour, "He ain't got a license, mind..."

The Starship was used by Alice Cooper, Allman Brothers Band, Deep Purple, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John and Peter Frampton on their tours.

The Starship was leased by McCulloch Int. in Nov. 1975, repossessed by Bank of America on Nov. 10, 1977, purchased by AeroAmerica on June 21, 1978, subleased as a private plane on Sept. 1978 through Mar. 1979 and then it went into storage at Luton Airport in London. It was then parted out in July 1982 because it was too corroded for flight.

Starship Pictures

ca. 1961

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Jul. 24, 1973

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Feb. 27, 1975

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Jul. 24, 1973

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Jan. 17, 1975

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  Caesar's Chariot, N7224U (CN: 18077), the Boeing 720-022 that was subleased on the 1977 tour, rolled out from the assembly line on Dec. 12, 1961 and its first flight on Jan. 16, 1962. It was delivered to United Airlines on Apr. 10, 1962 and was leased to Braniff on May 6, 1972 and was returned to United Airlines on Dec. 31, 1972. It was purchased by Todd Equipment in Mar. 31, 1975 and leased by Desert Palace Inc. and was named Caesars Chariot.

Caesar's Chariot was subleased by McCulloch Int. in Aug. 1975 and returned in Sept. 1976. Led Zeppelin subleased Caesar's Chariot in Apr. 1977.

After Led Zeppelin returned the plane in July 1977, the Bee Gees used Caesar's Chariot on their 1979 tour, then it returned into service until Boeing Military Airplane Company bought the plane in July 1986 and placed it in Davis-Monthan AFB on Oct. 11, 1986 for KC-135 re-engine and spares support program. It was totally parted out by Feb. 1987, but parts may have been rescued by an aircraft maintenance school.

Caesar's Chariot Pictures

ca. 1972

ca. Jul. 1975

ca. Nov. 1976

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Apr. 25, 1977

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Jun. 1977

Jul. 18, 1977

ca. Dec. 1978

Nov. 22, 1979

ca. Feb. 1983

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Sources: Stairway To Heaven-Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole & Led Zeppelin: Concert File by Dave Lewis and Simon Pallett.

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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