Musicians and other celebrities all over the world are well known for their tastes in private means of air travel. From Taylor Swift’s Dassault Falcon and Max Verstappen’s Falcon 900 EX to Floyd Mayweather Jr’s Gulfstream IV, buying a plane is often seen as one of the ultimate status symbols. Meanwhile, the original superstar, the “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley, had his own 1962 Lockheed JetStar. So what happened to this aircraft, and where is it now?
The King’s lost jet
Elvis Presley was no stranger to private jets. In fact, the 1962 Lockheed JetStar L-1329 was the third aircraft in his fleet. Aside from being a means of exclusive aerial transportation for the star, he also split the plane with his father, Vernon Presley, which reportedly made it particularly special to him.
The JetStar was Elvis’ last aircraft and is considered to be the “lost jet” by many, being bought by the star as late as 1976, a mere year before his death. While it was not as famous as the “Lisa Marie” or “Hound Dog II,” this aircraft is the only one currently privately owned. Despite the lack of excitement, it has all the hallmarks of a classic Elvis Presley jet.
The aircraft can comfortably seat eight passengers and features red velvet interiors with wood paneling and a shag carpet in the main cabin. However, these are all a little worse for wear after many years of sitting idly in the desert. The plane also features a music system onboard (a must for Elvis). While it must certainly once have been very glamorous, the plane’s interior has definitely seen better days.
After being sold in 1977, the plane had little life after that. The aircraft has spent 35 years in a desert in Roswell, New Mexico. Its engines and flight components have been removed, rendering it no longer airworthy. Notably, the outside has caught layers of rust, hiding its previous life of luxury.
However, despite the apparent shortcomings, there has been a lot of interest in this aircraft over the last few years. As the only Elvis jet available for sale (the other two are on display in Graceland in perpetuity), it has gone up for auction several times. In 2017, it sold for $430,000, lower than its estimated multimillion price but still a respectable amount.
Two of Elvis’ most popular aircraft are up for display in the Graceland Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Mr. Littlehand via Flickr
The plane went up for sale once again in 2018, and bidding opened lower than many had expected, despite how valuable Elvis collectible memorabilia can be. Many have noted that restoring this aircraft to flying condition, or refurbishing it, could attract millions in visitations and attraction fees.
Back on auction, but no interest thus far
Elvis’ 1962 Lockheed JetStar is currently registered N440RM and remains in private hands – and would you know, it is again up for auction! However, at the time of writing, since the bidding for the jet went live (along with a whole range of Elvis memorabilia) in August 2022, there have been zero official bids. Meanwhile, the page of the auction has received close to 6,000 views. The jet is accompanied by a letter written by Elvis’ wife Priscilla, stating,
“This is a very significant piece of history as it was the only jet Elvis bought with his father. Elvis always wished to support his father’s entrepreneurial endeavors, especially after losing his mother so early. Elvis loved and respected his father very much and this jet is a piece of him and his father’s heart.”
The JetStar was a particularly popular aircraft among celebrities and VIPs looking to jet off. Frank Sinatra was another singer using the plane, and President Lyndon B Johnson affectionately referred to his JetStar as the “Air Force One and Half.” Production came to an end in the 1970s, and the jet has become a rarity outside museums. If you have a chance to see one, remember it has a long and star-studded history.
Source: GWS Auctions