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!

April 24, 1969 - 2nd US Tour begins (1st as headliners) at the Fillmore West
April xx, 1970 - Robert comments about the violence in the audience near the end of the fifth tour
April 04, 1970 - Jimmy Page performs White Summer/Black Mountain Side on the Julie Felix BBC show
April 16, 1970 - Whole Lotta Love was certified Gold in the US after selling over a million copies. The single had peaked at No. 4 on the US singles chart. In the UK, Atlantic Records had expected to issue the edited version themselves, and pressed initial copies for release on December 5, 1969. However, band manager Peter Grant was adamant that the band maintain a "no-singles" approach to marketing their recorded music in the UK and he halted the release.
April xx, 1971 - Untitled is rumored to be released this month
April xx, 1972 - Recording sessions for Houses Of The Holy at Stargroves and Olympic studios
April xx, 1973 - Led Zeppelin rehearse their new stage show in preparation for their huge 1973 US Tour
April xx, 1974 - Swan Song concentrates its efforts on signing new acts
April xx, 1975 - Jimmy does some mixing at Electric Lady studios for TSRTS soundtrack
April 19, 1975 - 51,000 tickets sell in two hours for three nights at Earls Court, two added dates see another 34,000 tickets sold
April xx, 1976 - The band decide they will release their film to theaters
April 30, 1977 - Led Zeppelin breaks the record for the largest attendance for a single-act show in the Pontiac Silverdome with 76,229 in attendance
April xx, 1978 - The band hold a meeting, this time with Robert, to discuss Zeppelin’s future
April 03, 1979 - Page, Bonham and Plant jam with Bad Company again in Birmingham
April 27, 1980 - The band rehearses at Rainbow Theater for an upcoming European tour
April 26, 1988 - James Patrick Page III’s birthday. He is named after his father is the only son of Jimmy and Patricia Ecker. Jimmy spoke of his son saying: "He is wonderful. He has made a big difference to my life."
April 21, 1998 - Page and Plant released Walking Into Clarksdale.
© 1996 - 2021 Led Zeppelin: Achilles Last Stand - All Rights Reserved
Advertise | Disclaimer | Site Map