Frank Sinatra jet donated to BOCES by Kings Point man
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Kings Point businessman Arik Kislin has an abiding interest in the Rat Pack, especially Frank Sinatra, leader of the entertainment giants and icons of 1960s cool.
"I've seen movies, read a lot of books, and I collect some of the artifacts," he said. "Rat Pack artifacts, like paintings, pictures, this one piece from the Sinatra family, a statue of Frank, Dean [Martin] and Sammy [Davis Jr.]," which he keeps in his home.
But his biggest trophy, which he donated to the Western Suffolk BOCES aviation maintenance program last month, was a 1968 Gulfstream II jet he said Sinatra owned and which may have flown such jet setters as Liza Minnelli.
Sinatra appears to have owned more than one, so it is not clear if actor Richard Burton was referring to the one parked on the tarmac at East Farmingdale's Republic Airport when he wrote in his diary about a trip in Sinatra's "Gulf Stream jet or something like that" from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, Calif., in 1970.
"It's a lovely plane and E [Elizabeth Taylor], of course, immediately wanted to buy a similar one." Tongue presumably in cheek, he added, "It costs no more than 3 1/4 million. That's all."
The Federal Aviation Administration could not confirm that Sinatra owned the plane, but Kislin is confident of the connection. Employees of his jet charter company, JFI Jets, said they'd worked on the plane when Sinatra owned it and told him of regular stops in Las Vegas and Palm Springs, he said. JFI employees supplied maintenance records they said showed its tail number was once N22FS, as in Frank Sinatra.
Also, Kislin said, Minnelli, a frequent Sinatra passenger, once regaled him at a charity event with stories set in the plane, which gentlemanly protocol prevented him from repeating.
Kislin, 45, said he'd used the jet for nearly a decade, but the Gulfstream -- which cruised at 581 mph and seated up to 22 -- was a gas guzzler, which mattered less in the late '60s.
Some of its technology was outdated, and its engines needed to be replaced, so it no longer made business sense.
He wanted to keep it on Long Island, where it was designed by Grumman, and thought BOCES' Wilson Technological Center would be a good fit. "Maybe once in while I could drive by and see it, flash a wink," he said. "And it'll help teach the kids."
Enter Diana Santiago, who teaches aviation maintenance at the school, and a summer class with a handful of students.
Old Blue Eyes aside, Santiago said, this plane is "a very big deal. It's not something we could normally afford."
On the tarmac recently, dignitaries and students gathered next to the jet, which was white, with red and blue stripes, five oval windows on each side and wings that seemed absurdly wide.
"Gorgeous," was the first take from Louis Sanchez, 18, of Massapequa, although his companions noted that it was smaller than Jay-Z's plane, a Gulfstream of more recent vintage.
The students examined its thrust inverters, then crowded down to peer into a wheel well. It looked like a nest of tubes and wires and reeked of oil.
They'd been studying induction, exhaust and cooling systems in class. With the plane, it would be different. "We saw them taken apart on a table; now we can see them in the places where they belong," said Austin Christie, 17, of Wyandanch.
As the inspection ended, Kislin left the airport in a chauffeured Lexus, bound soon for Wimbledon, England, where he was going to take in tennis with Jimmy Connors, he said.
"This," said student Anthony Hopkins, 18, of Deer Park, "is like candy to us."