The Legendary “Big Bunny”
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Published April 18, 2024
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The 1960s and 70s marked a transformative period in global culture, characterized by significant shifts in social norms, technology, and design. One unique symbol of this vibrant era was “Big Bunny,” the distinctive jetliner purchased by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in 1970. This custom-modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 is a relic of luxury and a fascinating snapshot of aviation history and cultural evolution.

The aircraft began its life as a standard DC-9, designed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Known for its technical innovations, the DC-9 featured engines attached to the fuselage, enhancing lift during take-off and improving accessibility for baggage handling—an ideal choice for commercial and private aviation alike.

The Playboy Transformation

Under Hugh Hefner’s direction, the plane underwent a dramatic transformation. The exterior was painted black, and the Playboy rabbit head logo was added to the tailfin, making it instantly recognizable. This visual branding was a bold statement at that time in the relatively conservative field of aviation.

The interior of the Big Bunny was remodeled to match the extravagant lifestyles often celebrated in Playboy magazine. It included a lounge with leather sofas, a movie screening area, and a full-service galley. The plane was configured to host intimate gatherings of celebrities and friends, including stars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, offering them the comfort of ground-like luxury at 30,000 feet.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

The Big Bunny became more than just a means of transport; it was a venue for socializing among the elite in an era of opulent personal expression. The jet served as a mobile extension of the Playboy Mansion, with stories of extravagant airborne parties contributing to the Playboy brand’s image in popular culture.

By 1975, amidst shifting economic conditions and Hefner’s changing business priorities, the decision was made to sell the aircraft. The sale marked the end of an era for the iconic jet. Venezuela Airlines became its new owner in a move that reflected the often volatile nature of aviation economics. Later, the jet found a home with Aeromexico, continuing its service beyond the glitzy glamour for which it was famous. However, the Big Bunny’s story did not end there.

A Modern Rebirth

In 2021, the legacy of the Big Bunny was revived when a new Bombardier Global Express jet was introduced by Playboy as its spiritual successor. While this new jet mimics the old in size and style, it offers a blend of nostalgia and modernity, equipped to meet the standards of today’s VIP travel while also serving as a tribute to its extravagant origins.
The new Big Bunny retains the iconic black paint and rabbit logo, paying homage to its storied predecessor, and its interiors are a mix of classic 70s aesthetics and the latest in luxury appointments, appealing to today’s high-profile travelers. This revival not only pays homage to the jet’s glamorous past but also propels its legacy into the future, bridging decades of aviation and cultural history.

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