Shots of an infamous arms dealer’s customised airliner are on display at a British photography festival.
Adnan Khashoggi made billions in the 1960s and 1970s by brokering arms deals between the USA and Saudi Arabia – and he was famed for his lavish lifestyle, owning planes, yachts and a dozen stretched limousines.
The Saudi Arabian bought this DC-8 plane in 1982 for $31 million and splashed out a further $9 million to transform a run-of-the-mill airliner into a bespoke plane for the world’s richest man.
AK – as he liked to be known – enlisted the help of Texan designer Michael Reese who, according to photographer Nick Gleis, is “one of the most creative and forward thinking designers of his time.”
Reese went to work on Khashoggi’s plane, giving it one of the most sumptuous makeovers ever seen on an aircraft, installing three bedrooms, with the design befitting a Las Vegas penthouse.
Guests of AK were served their food on dishes worth a total of $750,000 while the plane’s ceiling had an intricate map of the cosmos – a 50th birthday gift for Khashoggi in 1985.
The pictures are the work of Nick Gleis whose website BizJetPhotos showcases what can be done to a plane if money is no object. Nick, who has spent the past 30 years photographing planes belonging to heads of state and royal families, snapped AK’s plane in 1984, remembering the experience fondly.
He said: “I was truly excited to be part of the most contemporary and advanced aircraft design of its time. Capturing the ambiance of that aircraft was truly a high point in my career.
“When the jet was delivered, it was, and even by today’s standards remains, one of the premier business jet interiors ever built.”
The Saudi Arabian businessman suffered financial problems shortly after the plane was completed and it was stripped and sold to an airliner in 1986.
Gleis’ work is now the subject of an exhibition at the 2010 Brighton Photo Biennial which is being curated by the internationally renowned photographer Martin Parr.