Travolta’s trust sues Jumbolair developers

At issue are the weight of his Boeing 707 jet, runaway access and a descent lighting system.

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Posted February 8, 2024 |

Actor John Travolta, arguably Marion County’s most famous resident, is once again suing the current owners of the Jumbolair development and the Jumbolair homeowners association. Hawker Investment Trust, which owns the 19+ acre parcel in northeast Ocala where Travolta lives and keeps his Boeing 707-138B jet, sued after mediation failed.

The suit filed by Hawker Investment Trust, Travolta’s entity, is against Jumbolair Aviation Estates Owners Association and Jumbolair Development, LLC, owned by Robert and Debra Bull, which is the third Master Developer of the community.

William Schifino, attorney for the trust, said the team had hoped the pre-suit mediation on Jan. 10 would work out the parties’ differences, but it was unsuccessful. The suit was filed in Marion County Civil Court on Jan. 18.

The Gazette spoke with local attorney Rob Batsel, who is serving as co-counsel in this case, who said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The 707 weight, runaway access and a descent lighting system are focus of suit

The current complaint centers on the weight of Travolta’s 707 jet (maximum of 247,000 pounds) and access to the 7,550-foot runway, known as the longest private airstrip in the United States. The parcel–which holds a custom home, pool, guest quarters and two airplane hangars–was completed during the summer of 2003. The complaint also details previous litigation between Hawker and previous owners.

The resolution of another Hawker suit in 2007 against previous owners stated that inspections by professional engineers supported the operation of a Boeing 707, and further, that the 2008 settlement agreement included a “Binding Effect” that “shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties…and each and all of their heirs, agents, personal representative, [s}uccessors[,] and assigns.” That language was designed to protect the Hawker trust’s access to the runway, deemed “sufficient to accommodate” the plane.

Robert and Debra Bull, the third Master Developers for the site, bought the Jumbolair Aviation Estates properties in 2021. The complaint states that “all right and responsibilities…pursuant to the said Declarations” shall be obligated to the new owners.

“However, the third Master Developer has acted inconsistent with its rights and responsibilities and has impeded Hawker from enjoying the benefits it has been enjoying for more than 20 years.”

The suit states that Jumbolair “wrongly implements the weight restriction on the runway; and also “refusal to abide under the PAPI lights agreement” previously in place when Hawker installed the lighting system in 2002. The PAPI lights system is a precision approach path indicator that serves as a visual element to assist pilots during descent toward a runway.

An altercation took place last summer, according to the suit. The complaint states that Mr. Bull “was removed from the Hawker Property” in July 2023 after a confrontation between him and a Hawker representative. According to the complaint, Bull stated “any land west of the runway (including but not limited to, Tract B-4) was private property and that he would trespass any representative of Hawker who stepped foot on any of the same.” Subsequent requests to turn on the PAPI lights were refused, stated the suit.

“Hawker has been damaged by…the loss of use and enjoyment of the runway,” the suit claims.

Jumbolair’s proposed PUD expansion facing opposition

​Attorney Schifino, speaking by phone, said Travolta was aware of the proposed planned unit development (PUD) expansion of Jumbolair and said, “my client is opposed to the PUD plan” and plans to have a representative at the Feb. 20 Marion County Board of County Commissioners meeting.

​The land use and zoning applications were continued from a Dec. 5, 2023 BOCC meeting, with Jumbolair’s attorney, Robert Batsel Jr., stating the application had been significantly changed from the original plans presented to the Planning & Zoning Board in October. The revised PUD is still a fly-in and equestrian community and proposes 240 new homes and nearly 200 new aircraft hangars.

​The project garnered substantial opposition at the P&Z meeting, and other opposition to the proposed PUD has since been voiced by an organized group of neighbors; the Ocala Horse Alliance; Save Our Rural Area; and Horse Farms Forever. All have published formal statements of opposition to the project.

​Travolta, Schifino said, wants to continue to be a good neighbor to the rural residents nearby and he noted the farmland and rural feel of the area were appealing factors to the actor when he chose to live in the neighborhood.

Jumbolair has a storied history dating back to the 1980s when it was initially developed as a wildlife rescue park when its then-owner Arthur Jones, creator of Nautilus fitness equipment, used it to fly in elephants and other exotic wildlife; hence, the name Jumbolair.

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