As a new biopic about Elvis Presley, directed by Baz Lurhmann, hits the silver screen, there’s been a renewed interest in the life of the man dubbed the ‘King of Rock and Roll’. Recognized as the best-selling solo artist of all time by Guinness World Records, with one million billion sales worldwide, it’s safe to say that Elvis Presley is one of the most recognizable faces – and voices – in music history. 

Like most global superstars, Presley also enjoyed traveling in style, which included taking to the skies in his own fleet of private planes, consisting of a Convair 880 and two Lockheed JetStars. 

But what do we know about the legendary musician’s fleet? And more interestingly, where are these aircraft now? AeroTime investigates. 

From regular passenger plane to flying mansion    

Elvis Presley purchased his first personal plane, a Convair 880 (a competitor of narrow-body aircraft like the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8) from Delta Air Lines for $250,000 (roughly $1.2 million today) in April 1975. The plane had served the carrier since 1960.  

Dubbed the ‘Lisa Marie’ after the singer’s only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, the plane, which was configured as a standard passenger cabin, underwent significant refurbishment. The renovations cost the superstar around $800,000, according to Graceland Blog, and took just over six months to complete.  

Elvis Presley's plane the Lisa MarieDreamArt123 / Shutterstock

The music artist finally took to the skies onboard the renewed plane, registration N880EP, on November 27, 1975.  

The plane was so lavish, it could be said that Presley’s goal was to turn his private jet into a flying mansion like his home in Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, his relatives even claimed in their memoirs that the singer had nicknamed the plane the ‘Flying Graceland’ after his 13.8-acre (5.6-hectare) home. 

Flying in style with customized cabin features 

The Lisa Marie’s main role was to fly Presley to destinations across the United States as part of his tour. Customized in a yellow, green, and gold interior, the plane’s updated cabin also featured gold-plated belt buckles, leather-topped tables, and suede sofas. It also included several modern solutions, which were quite rare at the time, such as a sky-to-ground phone and a quadraphonic eight-track stereo system.  

The plane was divided into a few separate areas, including a spacious master bedroom, a guest bedroom, a lounge area, a conference room and two and a half baths complete with gold fixtures. 

Interior of the Lisa MarieDawlad Ast / Flickr

While sleek and modern on the inside, the Lisa Marie was less ostentatious from the exterior. The plane was painted white and featured a blue and red strap from its nose through the whole fuselage to the tail.  

The tail was daubed in the colors of the US flag and included a special Elvis Presley logo, featuring the acronym TCB which stands for “Taking Care of Business”, a phrase commonly used by the music star in reference to his career.  

Each flight cost around $404,000 to operate.  

Interior of Elvis Presley's aircraft the Lisa MarieDawlad Ast / Shutterstock

What happened to the Lisa Marie?  

After Presley’s death in 1977, the plane was grounded for several years. But in 1984, the aircraft was handed over to Memphis-based OKC Partnership, which set up an agreement with Elvis Presley Enterprises to allow the company to publicly display the jet at Graceland in exchange for a percentage of ticket sales.  

However, in 2014, Elvis Presley Enterprises asked OKC Partnership to change the agreement and remove the plane for restoration. In 2018, the Lisa Marie underwent a repaint and was returned to permanent display at Graceland.   

The plane has gone on to be one of the most visited tourist attractions in the US. 

Elvis Presley Airways 

Presley harbored dreams of one day owning his own fleet of aircraft and purchased three planes before his death in 1977. While the Lisa Marie was referred to as “the pride of Elvis Presley Airways”, the singer also flew another jet called ‘Hound Dog II’.  

The Hound Dog II was bought in September 1975 while Presley was waiting for renovation work to be completed on the Lisa Marie. The aircraft, a Lockheed JetStar executive business jet, entered service in 1960.  

Elvis Presley plane the Hound Dog IIDreamArt123 / Shutterstock 

Presley paid $900,000 for the Hound Dog II, more than three times the amount spent on the Lisa Marie. He took off onboard the aircraft for the first time in October 1975.  

While the 10-seater business jet did not require any major changes, Presley still made some adjustments to the cabin, equipping the aircraft with similar features to the Lisa Marie. The recording artist also changed the color of the cabin seats to yellow, green, and blue.  

The Hound Dog II experienced the fate as the Lisa Marie. After the singer’s death, both planes were sold by Presley’s family, before being repurchased and put on display at Graceland. 

Lockheed Jetstar Hound Dog IIThomas R Machnitzki / Wikimedia Commons

What happened to Elvis Presley’s last plane?  

Presley’s private fleet also included another Lockheed JetStar. Built-in 1962, the Lockheed JetStar L-1329, registered N440RM, was the third and last jet bought by Presley. It was purchased in 1976, a year before the singer’s death, and was the least flown of all his aircraft.  

When it came to cabin design, Presley’s third jet outshone its predecessors. It featured pink velvet seats, sofas, carpets, and woodwork, and was painted in a vivid red livery.  

#ElvisPresley 1962 Lockheed JetStar L-1329 Private Jet #aviationlovers pic.twitter.com/N1qyFpzcKw

— Mickey is Procrastinating (@techfido) August 29, 2022

After Presley’s death, the plane was sent to desert in New Mexico for storage, spending around 35 years before it eventually being sold to a private owner.  

One of just 204 Lockheed JetStar planes manufactured between 1957 and 1978, Presley’s third private plane more than three decades on the ground unmaintained. With its rusty fuselage and missing engines, the aircraft was no longer airworthy.  

However, the jet was put up for auction on several occasions and has garnered a great deal of attention. Despite its unusable condition the starting bid for the aircraft was $10,000. The jet was eventually sold in 2017 to an undisclosed buyer for a whopping $430,000.  

While the fate of the third jet remains unknown, fans of the legendary music star can only hope that the jet will be restored to its former glory. Meanwhile, fans continue to flock to Graceland in their thousands where they can see the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog II on full display.  

Lockheed Jetstar Hound Dog II flightdeckThomas R Machnitzki / Wikimedia Commons

Source: aerotime.aero

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