Oscar-winning film-maker Sir Peter Jackson has splashed out on a top-of-the-range private jet worth about NZ$68 million – but it will be parked in Melbourne.
The Gulfstream G550 is described as the creme de la creme of private planes and capable of flying non-stop from New Zealand to Los Angeles.
It replaces Jackson's older Gulfstream IV, which had to make a refuelling stop in Samoa or Hawaii because of its shorter range.
Jackson's spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, confirmed his boss's new aircraft was based in Melbourne, although he would not confirm that it was a G550.
Private jet owners are notoriously secretive about the creature comforts aboard their planes. But a standard fitout for an intercontinental G550 typically accommodates between 12 and 16 passengers in leather seats and divans arranged in several distinct living areas. The seating can be converted to beds for five or six passengers.
Insiders say Jackson insists on all his guests donning pyjamas for their overnight flight to Hollywood.
Typically the cabin would be configured with some of the seats reclined into beds while also leaving enough seats for passengers to sit upright at takeoff and while eating.
To pass the time at 45,000ft, they can watch their host's favourite works on large screens while he prepares for his next Oscar appearance in a bathroom featuring full-length wardrobes.
To help ward off the effects of jet lag, passengers breathe only fresh air in a cabin bathed in natural light shining through large windows, while cruising well above the masses crammed into jumbo jets.
Jackson is a vintage aviation buff and owns a collection of 29 World War I and replica planes, about half of which are in flying condition. He also owns a plane building company, The Vintage Aviator, and is planning a film about the World War II Dambusters, for which some test shots of scale replica Lancaster bombers have already been filmed.
The G550 arrived last month and was initially expected to be based at Wellington Airport.
The need to build a hangar for the jet at short notice appears to have been behind a push by the airport to kick the local aero club off its site on the other side of the runway from the main terminal building.
An industry source said there was initially some urgency in getting the jet into a permanent hangar to protect it from the salty air during its spells on the ground. "You can't leave aeroplanes parked out in the open at Wellington. It doesn't take long for corrosion to set in."
The jet was now just three hours away in Melbourne, where hangar space was cheaper and there was more demand for charter work, the source said.
Airport business development general manager Matt Clarke said the airport was considering a multi-use hangar that could provide overnight maintenance for airline jets and parking for smaller planes. He would not comment on the G550 hangar plans.
The airport's stance towards the aero club also appears to have softened. With the loss of the G550 base, any development will not start this year. The club has flown from the airport for 80 years.
- © Fairfax NZ News