On April 17, 1975 Elvis bought a Convair 880 Jet, recently taken out of service by Delta Airlines, for the then-substantial sum of $250,000. After refurbishing, the total exceeded $600,000.
The plane was in a hangar at Meacham Field in Fort Worth, and for months Elvis took great pleasure in flying friends out to check on progress as the interior of the plane was refurbished to his very specific design requirements (he bought another plane to make those trips – a smaller Lockheed JetStar). Elvis wanted a seating area, a conference room, and a private bedroom on the plane (with space for an in-flight reading library). He picked fabrics, decided on color schemes, chose the on-board audio-visual system, and even Ok’d the gold fixtures in the bathrooms (he counted heavily on some aesthetic input from Pricilla too).
Elvis was especially excited about the fact that the same design team had previously customized AIFROCE ONE. The craft slowly came together as an airworthy mix of modem function and Graceland elegance.
Close in size to a 707, the Lisa Marie was customized with plush sleeping quarters, a penthouse bedroom with a custom-made queen size bed, an executive bathroom with gold faucets and a gold washbasin, a videotape system linked to four TVs and a stereo system with fifty-two speakers, and a conference room finished in teak.
It could hold a maximum of 29 people, but usually there would be about eight or 10. When the final paint job was applied to the exterior, there was a prominent ‘TCB’ logo on the tail.
- April 17, Elvis buys an ex Delta Airlines Convair 880 Jet for $250,000.
- November 10, The Lisa Marie is delivered to Memphis late in the evening, joining the Jetstar
- November 27, Ron Strauss takes Elvis on his first real flight in The Lisa Marie, traveling Las Vegas.
- August 7, Arrangements are made for Linda Thompson and her friend, Jeannie LeMay, to fly with Elvis’ chow, Getlow to Boston, so that the dog can receive treatment for a kidney ailment.
- December 25, In the evening Elvis takes everyone up in The Lisa Marie.
Elwood David was the Captain and pilot of The Lisa Marie. Accompanying him in the cockpit was another pilot, Ron Strauss and a flight engineer, Jim Manny. Milo High was the pilot of Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog II’ JetStar plane.
After Elvis’ death, Captain Elwood David flew to California to pick up Elvis’ ex-wife Pricilla Presley, Lisa Marie and the actor George Hamilton, a long-time friend of Elvis. He flew them back to California after the funeral, and, in what would be his last flight on the Lisa Marie, returned the plane to Memphis.
Elvis’ father, Vernon, sold the plane in 1978 and it changed hands a couple of times. When Graceland opened up to the public in 1982, EPE worked with the owners to try and bring the plane home to Memphis. In 1984, the Lisa Marie was returned to Graceland. Both aircraft have remained as one of the most popular attractions ever since.
The Convair 880
The Convair 880 was a jet airliner produced by the Convair division of General Dynamics. It was designed to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 by being smaller, faster and safer, a niche that failed to create demand. Only 65 880s were produced over the lifetime of the production run from 1959 to 1962, and General Dynamics eventually withdrew from the airliner market after considering the 880 project a failure. Only 9 of these aircraft are left in the world, none of them is airworthy and only one is preserved properly, Elvis Presley’s Lisa Marie.
The Lisa Marie
- Crew: Required a crew of four (Elvis always used the same crew).
- Seating capacity: 28 (after he customized the plane)
- Tower call name: ‘880 Echo Pappa’
- Nickname: “Hound Dog One”
- Elvis called the plane: ‘The Pride of Elvis Presley Airways’ and his ‘Flying Graceland’.
- Range: 3,000 miles
- Horsepower: 44,800 lbs. thrust
- Engines: Four General Electric CJ-805-3 Pod Mount Jets
- Length: 129′ 4″
- Wingspan: 120′
- Tail height from ground: 36′ 3″
- Weight: 87,000 lbs.
- Maximum weight: 184,000 lbs.
- Cruising speed: 615 M.P.H.
- Maximum altitude: 41,000 feet
- Fuel capacity: 10,770 gallons
- Fuel consumption: 1,700 gallons per hour; — take off: 2,200 gallons
- Operating cost for 1976: $404,000
- Manufacturer: Convair
- Maiden flight: January 27, 1959
- Produced: 1959-1962
- Number of aircrafts built: 65