The Starship

Travelling was always considered a major chore by Zeppelin. Neither Jimmy Page nor Peter Grant was 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 accommodations 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 136 feet, 2 inches (41.25 meters) long with a wingspan of 130 feet, 10 inches (39.90 meters), and an overall height of 41 feet, 7 inches (12.65 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 103,145 pounds (46,785 kilograms) and a Maximum Takeoff Weight of 220,000 pounds (100,800 kilograms).

The Boeing 720 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C-7 turbojet engines, a civil variant of the military J57 series. The JT3C-7 was a “two-spool” axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages), 8 combustion tubes, and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It was rated at 12,030 pounds of thrust (53.512 kilonewtons) for takeoff. The maximum cruise speed was 611 miles per hour (983 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed was 620 miles per hour (1,009 kilometers per hour). The range at maximum payload was 4,370 miles (7,033 kilometers).

It made its first flight on Nov. 23, 1959, in Renton, Washington. 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 armchairs, a 30-foot long couch running along the right-hand side of the plane opposite the bar, a television set, and a 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

23 November 1959

ca. 1960

ca. 1960

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

24 July 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

ca. 1973

30 July 1974

13 October 1974

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

17 January 1975

27 February 1975

27 February 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. 1975

ca. Feb. 1977

ca. November 1978
   

  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 on 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

ca. 1977

ca. 1977

Apr. 25, 1977

Apr. 25, 1977

Apr. 25, 1977

Jun. 1977

Jul. 18, 1977

ca. Dec. 1978

Nov. 22, 1979

ca. Feb. 1983

ca. 1977

ca. 1977

ca. 1977

ca. 1977

ca. 1977

ca. 1977
   

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

ADVERTISEMENTS

Rick's Cool Collectibles

Rick's Cool Collectibles is a memorabilia mail order company serving collectors worldwide! Since 1979 the name Rick Barrett has been associated with quality collectibles including rare concert & event tickets and stubs, Led Zeppelin memorabilia, select music & sports memorabilia, stamps, coins, old postcards, and more!

This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

January 09, 1944 - James Patrick Page was born in Heston, Middlesex
January 03, 1946 - John Baldwin was born in Sidcup, Kent
January 02, 1946 - Led Zeppelin Tour Manager Richard Cole was born in Kensal Rise, London, England
January 05, 1967 - Jimmy Page begins recording Little Games with The Yardbirds at De Lane Lea Studios in London.
January 17, 1969 - Led Zeppelin released in the US
January xx, 1970 - Led Zeppelin now play without support acts in order to perform longer sets
January 09, 1970 - Royal Albert Hall gig filmed and recorded for documentary that is eventually scraped. (But was recalled for 2003’s DVD)
January xx, 1971 - Recording continues at Headley Grange
January xx, 1972 - Page has a studio built into his home
January 02, 1973 - Plant’s car breaks down and Bonham and he barely make the Sheffield City Hall gig
January 22, 1973 - Led Zeppelin record a live gig at Southampton University
January xx, 1974 - Recording Physical Graffiti at Headley Grange
January xx, 1974 - The band resigns with Atlantic and forms their own label
January 03, 1975 - Jimmy breaks a finger at Victoria Station just a week before the European warm up shows
January 17, 1975 - The band rehearses in Minneapolis for the upcoming US tour. Bootleg "Johnny Kidd And The Pirates" evolves out of this rehearsal
January xx, 1976 - Jimmy contemplates the release of The Song Remains The Same film but, continues work on the soundtrack
January 01, 1976 - In Paris, Robert takes his first unaided steps since his car accident
January xx, 1977 - Rehearsals for US tour take place at Manticore Studios in Fulham
January 24, 1977 - Bonham and Plant watch The Damned perform at the Roxy in London
January xx, 1978 - Media still claims Led Zeppelin have broke up
January 21, 1979 - Robert Plant is now proud father to son Logan Romero
January xx, 1980 - Zeppelin donate Candy Store Rock to a benefit album to benefit children
January 31, 1995 - Jimmy Page escaped being knifed when a fan rushed the stage at a Page and Plant gig at Auburn Hills, Michigan. The fan was stopped by two security guards, who he knifed instead. After his arrest, he told police that he wanted to kill Jimmy Page because of the Satanic music he was playing.
© 1996 - 2021 Led Zeppelin: Achilles Last Stand - All Rights Reserved
Advertise | Disclaimer | Site Map