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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

ca. 1973

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Jul. 24, 1973

Jul. 30, 1974

Oct. 13, 1974

Feb. 27, 1975

Feb. 27, 1975

ca. Feb. 1977

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Jul. 24, 1973

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Jan. 17, 1975

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Jan. 17, 1975

Jan. 17, 1975

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ca. 1975

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ca. 1975

  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

ca. 1977

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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

July xx, 1969 - The band play many festivals now on their third American tour
July xx, 1970 - Additional recording for Led Zeppelin III at London’s Island Studios
July 16, 1970 - Photographer Chris Welch films Led Zeppelin on his 8mm camera, some clips later used in the Whole Lotta Love promo video
July xx, 1971 - Untitled gets re-mixed in London
July 05, 1971 - A riot erupts mid-concert, forcing Led Zeppelin to stop after about 40 minutes
July xx, 1972 - After repeated bad press, Led Zeppelin hire their first publicity firm
July 20, 1973 - A last minute decision is made to film the remaining part of the tour
July xx, 1973 - Led Zeppelin is filmed over the three nights for their film that will emerge as The Song Remains The Same
July xx, 1974 - After viewing their 1973 filmed performance, it is apparent critical errors were made
July xx, 1974 - Mixing for Physical Graffiti at Olympic Studios
July 05, 1975 - The band meet in Montreux to discuss adding South America and Japan to the end of their North American tour
July xx, 1976 - Bonham and Page fly to Montreux, Switzerland to check out some new sound and drum effects
July 17, 1977 - The last ever performance of Moby Dick played at the Seattle Kingdome
July 24, 1977 - The band plays its last US date at the Oakland Coliseum
July xx, 1978 - Led Zeppelin are invited to perform at Maggie Bell’s Festival Hall show
July xx, 1979 - Led Zeppelin film their rehearsal at Bray Studios
July 04, 1979 - Led Zeppelin confirm a second date at Knebworth in August 1979
July 05, 1980 - Simon Kirke joins in on drums for an encore in Munich
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