Excerpt from ELVIS '56 In The Beginning by Alfred Wertheimer:
We were crossing under the Hudson River into the subterranean corridors of Pennsylvania Station.
The main concourse of the station was active with Sunday morning travelers. Elvis picked up a copy of the Sunday New York Mirror. This time he didn't stick it under his arm. In bold, two-inch type the headline read "2 Airliners Missing, 127 Aboard." I had heard he once had a close call in a chartered plane, somewhere outside of Texas.
He read that news across the concourse "PHOENIX, ARIZ. June 30. Two luxury airliners, carrying an estimated 127 passengers and crew, were missing and presumed crashed in the Arizona desert ... "), up the stairs ("as darkness wrapped the desert, a vast search-rescue effort was halted for the night ... "), on the street (" ... could be the worst disaster in commercial aviation history ... ") and in the cab ("Other Major Flying Disasters") to the Hudson Theatre, site of the "Steve Allen Show." The train looked better all the time.
Translated from Spanish by Robert van Beek
I remember the day I met Carlos, some ten years ago at the time of writing this text. I had just started studying Aeronautical Engineering at the National Technological University, and I would be about 18 or 19 years old. In parallel to my studies, I had decided to serve as a Research Fellow at the Aerodynamics and Fluids Laboratory, belonging to our university. The Laboratory staff had members of academic and professional excellence, added to the warmth and friendship that make up the camaraderie of the aeronautical environment. For this reason, it was frequent to receive visits from students, teachers, graduates and third parties, either out of curiosity, to make inquiries, or simply to say hello and share a talk, coffee through. I was doing tasks in the Laboratory that day, when one of these visits, after a brief talk with the engineer in charge of the place, addressed me to start a conversation:
"They told me you're an Elvis fan!"
This is how I met Carlos and how our relationship began, which continues to this day where I have the great honor of writing a few paragraphs in this wonderful book. Besides being a true friend, Carlos has been my teacher in two of the subjects that make up our career: Airports and Aeroelasticity. Two subjects whose completion I really enjoyed and where I was able to verify the excellence with which Carlos gives each of his classes. Dynamic, modern, charismatic and passionate, Carlos manages to transmit his knowledge and experiences in the aeronautical industry to his students in an effective way. Elvis Presley and Aeronautical Engineering are the two reasons that that day made our paths cross. And it is for the same reasons that Carlos entrusted me with the privileged task of reviewing the book, a job that I did from beginning to end with complete satisfaction. This work is the result of a meticulous research and compilation of information that he carried out over many years, something that is truly admirable. I really enjoyed reading it, I became aware of events in Elvis' life that I was not aware of, I colloborated others that I did know, I learned and above all I confirmed the humble, generous and enthusiastic nature of Elvis Presley. This book is a valuable piece, a jewel for all Elvis fans, as well as a curious and interesting work for experts and lovers of aviation. I thank Carlos for trusting me to do the review and for his patience during the process.
Julian Tomkiewicz February 26, 2021
The Elvis Files is the first to present an insight look into Carlos Varrenti's'recently published book: 1956-1977 Elvis in Aviation. "ELVIS PRESLEY The Planes and The King." With much detailed technical information and many photos of the aircrafts Elvis traveled on. 198 pages in words and photos.
As an Aeronautical Engineer, and a huge Elvis Presley fan, I have always wanted to write a book on Planes and the King. Since my first visit to Graceland, back in 2001, I have been extremely intrigued by Elvis' history with his aircraft and his link to aeronautics in general. Observing the imposing flying machines exhibited at Graceland as testimonies to the greatness of the Artist of the Century, led me to think at the time that there was more behind his story. And there is! It was like this that, for several years now, every little detail, every short paragraph in a book, every video, every photograph, every little note or information related to Elvis and his planes, was always marked and kept in my personal archive. After several years of accumulating material, I have decided to entrust myself to this company, putting into words what I was able to compile of my two great passions:
Elvis Presley and Aeronautics.
This humble research work is intended for any fan of the King who wants to learn more about this hidden and enigmatic aeronautical facet of Elvis; as well as, for any aviation lover who is intrigued by the singer's bond with the exciting world of aeronautics.
Ing. Aer. Carlos Varrenti December 17, 2020.
Elvis at the Indianapolis Airport on June 26, 1977
On March 2, 1960, with the presence of Priscilla Ann Beaulieu, a 15-year-old girl whom Elvis met during his stay in Germany and who, as we all know, would end up being his only wife years later, Sergeant Elvis Presley said goodbye to his German media and fans, boarding a United States Air Force Douglas DC-6 at Frankfurt Airport (also known as Rhein-Main-Flughafen) to return home to civilian life. Aircraft serial number 44626 was taken by the USAF with identification 53-3255, and it was she who delivered Sergeant Presley to Fort Dix, New Jersey, but not before making a stopover in Prestwick, Scotland, on March 3, 1960 .
On April 7, 1962 Elvis would visit the islands again on PanAm flight 817. In this case the aircraft was another Boeing 707-321 with registration N725PA and serial number 17603 Clipper Aurora. Delivered to Pan American on Dec 12, 1959. Rented to Turk Hava Yollari on Jan 1, 1971, and sold to Greyfin on March 27, 1972, who re-rented to Turk Hava Yullari. The aircraft then went through a series of operators, until it was finally acquired in April 1982 by General Air Services, which stored it until it was scrapped in Miami in January 1984.
LearJet 23 The Christina II
According to Marty Lacker in his book Elvis, Portrait of a Friend, singer Frank Sinatra's LearJet The Christina II was used, as previously mentioned, to travel from Palm Springs to Las Vegas in 1967 on the occasion of Elvis and Priscilla's wedding. It was also rented for some seasons in Las Vegas to make the same trip, since Sinatra's residence was also in Palm Springs and he made the same flight very often. In addition to the famous 1967 photos, after the brief ceremony in Las Vegas, I am only aware of the existence of a photograph of the aircraft being used by Elvis, and the singer is not seen in it. The photo was taken on December 13, 1976 after Elvis had finished his last season in Las Vegas (see p.185). A beautiful home movie shot by Elvis' close friend Joe Esposito can be seen on his "My Home Movies DVD," where the aircraft and the happy couple are seen on the return trip to Palm Springs. As a fun fact, Frank also named this beautiful private jet in honor of his youngest daughter, Christina Sinatra.
1972 Grumman Gulfstream II-B G1159B This aircraft can be seen in the MGM film Elvis on Tour, which shows the tour that Elvis made in April 1972 beginning in Buffalo, New York and ending in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the film, the aircraft is seen with its old N8000J registration, and we can appreciate it both outside and inside. On April 11, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, went to receive the singer inside, giving him a small cardboard guitar covered with flowers, which Elvis accidentally broke the moment it passed into his hands. The scene was recorded and remained on film with the mayor's hilarious question: "Elvis are you going to play I ain't nothin 'but a Hound Dog?" To which Elvis, with great respect, responds a humble: "Yes Lord, we will touch her." Elvis boarding the Gulfstream, April 1972 The Gulfstream was also used by Elvis on the November tour of the same year. A year of pure Gulfstream!
McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Big Bunny Beautiful model, absolutely all painted black, commonly known as the "Big Bunny" for being his owner Hugh Hefner, the founder of PlayBoy. It was rented by Elvis during the summer of 1973 and 1974. It seems that the rental came with a full crew included, since in this aircraft, Jerry Schilling tells in his book "Me and a Guy named Elvis," when he found himself divorced from his wife, he slipped occasional adventure with a hostess "Bunny."
A third BAC was rented by Elvis for the famous Tour 16, which is well known to fans as it is one of the few of which we have almost all available concerts recorded on a sound console. Excellent shots of Elvis making use of this aircraft can be seen in home footage taken by fans at Hobby airport, in the great state of Texas, on June 7, 1975. The aircraft can be seen in another beautiful film made by a local channel (Channel 19) at the Huntsville, Alabama airport, when Elvis was leaving the city for his next destination in Mobile, in the same state. Photographs from the July '75 tour show the same BAC with its distinctive three color stripes, spanning the side of the fuselage, sporting an elegant light blue, brown and navy blue.
1974 BAC-1-11 TCB Logo! A second BAC was rented by Elvis in June '74 for his 13th Tour, from June 15 to July 2. This BAC is completely white, with no distinctive markings (except for a TCB logo on the door) and can be seen in the photos taken by fans at the Philadelphia airport on June 24th. As a curiosity, that day, when leaving the hotel, a fan gives Elvis a jar of peanut butter, which the singer gladly accepts and takes with him to the plane. It was quite possibly a flight with peanut butter and banana sandwiches, the famous “Elvis Sandwich”!
Elvis boarding the rented BAC-1-11, all white. The photograph is from June 24, 1974 at Eppley Airport, Philadelphia.
By 1975 it was time for Elvis to have his own plane, and the imposing Boeing 707 was the singer's first choice. On January 21 of that year, Elvis made a down payment of $ 75,000 for the purchase of the Boeing. But on February 13, the deal fell flat without being able to materialize, losing the money from the deposit. The offer was withdrawn because Elvis' lawyers received a telegram from a South American company, which claimed to be the owner of the aircraft. The previous owner had been financial fugitive Robert Vesco (a friend of Richard Nixon), who is known to have fled into exile in Costa Rica following a financial fraud committed at various international investment firms in 1972. Of course, considering the history of such a character, an investment of this magnitude would have represented a real problem for the Presley family. This is because, if ever the aircraft had landed in one of the countries where Vesco was wanted for the fraud committed, surely a vehicle embargo would have been carried out, leaving everyone in a very uncomfortable situation. In addition to all this, Joe Esposito in his book Good Rockin' Tonight comments that they also carried out a detailed inspection of the aircraft in New Jersey, after having made the deposit by Vernon, they found it in terrible condition, with loose cables, and radio equipment out of service. As advised at that time, putting it into service would have really demanded a fortune that they were not willing to pay. It was eventually sold to Pan American World Airways for $ 650,000.
A young aircraft engineer proudly poses with his first publication. ELVIS PRESLEY: "LOS AVIONES Y EL REY."
This amazing Spanish written book is available in a limited edition through firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Vanetti is currently working on an English translation due for late 2021.