Tag Archives: movies

Open Sky for Fearful Flyers

Had the pleasure to attend the very first Open Sky for Fearful Flyers class conducted by AirHollywood, the largest airplane mockup studio serving the motion picture, television and commercial production industry. While not afraid of flying, I decided to attend because I knew there would be useful information shared AND anything aviation-related designed to assist others is always a good thing. Well, we weren’t disappointed.


The class was facilitated by Capt Ron Nielsen, a retired commercial airline pilot. According to a published bio, Capt Ron has been a pilot for almost 40 years and recently retired as a captain for a major airline. Flying has been a lifelong passion of his and he now devotes much of his time and energy to helping others overcome their fear of flying. He began working with those fearful of flying in 1987, and has gained a unique understanding of fearful flyers and their fears. His master’s degree in professional counseling has served him well in his endeavor to help others. His knowledge of people combined with his knowledge of airplanes has helped him develop strategies for fearful flyers to successfully manage their fears. Through his live classes and webinars, he has restored confidence to thousands who are now flying again.  He is frequently contacted by the media for his aviation expertise.


The class was set up as a 6-hour course. Introduction of the weaker was followed by why people are afraid of flying (control, irrational fears, previous situations, etc.). After receiving statistics and facts about the safety of flying in today’s world, we partnered up with others in the class to learn more about what motivates your fear(s). As I’m not afraid of flying, my activity partner did most of the talking as I interviewed him about what makes him fearful. After sharing bios in a group forum, and what makes you fearful, we were treated to a very nice, casual lunch on the backlot. Lunch was followed up by “boarding” our flight. The studio is complete with Jetways and a motion-based mockup which simulates turbulence. We were then treated to the full phase of flight from boarding, to take off, cruise altitude, turbulence, landing, and arrival back at the gate. Even the owner of AirHollywood got in on the action, providing drinks from a beverage cart!


To my delight I had the opportunity to speak with the students in the Open Sky for Fearful Flyers course!

photo 1

Our day concluded with a tour of the AirHollywood props department and backlot, where we saw upclose and personal everything studios would need to film movie scenes, commercials, or photo shoots.

As this was the introductory course, AirHollywood and Capt Ron listened to, and answered questions from the students regarding what worked well and what we’d like to see in future classes. The goal is to have an on-going fear of flying classes complete with classroom instruction at the studio followed up by taking a real flight.

Here’s some of what we learned:

  • Every year, flying becomes safer > less accidents, although more traffic. Increases in safety due to better engines, technology, training
  • Fear of flying is NOT the same as risk of flying
  • Approximately 60 million people in the USA have a fear of flying
  • If you’re afraid of flying, first introduce yourself to the flight attendants and let them know. Then the pilots. Make sure all of the crew is aware
  • Breathing through a drinking straw will prevent you from hyperventilating. Carry one with you if you’re prone to hyperventilating
  • Sights. Sounds. Sensations — overcoming the fear of flight begins by recognizing these

I left the studio feeling great. It’s a nice feeling knowing that there are others out there who have a love and passion for what flight can add to your life and how overcoming your fear of flying can enrich your life and make it more fulfilling.

Talaat Captan, Capt Ron Nielsen, Rachel Owen, Me

Talaat Captan, Capt Ron Nielsen, Rachel Owen, Me


Please see our previous post on visiting AirHollywood > click here


Air Hollywood

Air Hollywood

Air Hollywood

About 3 weeks ago we read an article about a little known company named Air Hollywood. The article was about their “K-9 Flight School” whereby they train dogs to be comfortable in and around airports and airplanes. As lovers of dogs we were very intrigued. As lovers of all things aviation (some would say we’re geeks), we were enthralled by Air Hollywood. We promptly connected with Air Hollywood to inquire about taking a tour of this very unique studio. To our surprise, and delight, they answered our inquiry with enthusiasm. We quickly set up a visit.

Nestled in an industrial park near Northridge CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, is an unassuming studio. There are no ornate gates to welcome you, no electric golf carts whizzing executives from set to set, no reserved parking spaces with famous movie stars names emblazoned on them. What we found was a small team of enthusiastic, funny, accommodating folks charting a path as a niche studio.

Air Hollywood, which opened in 2001, is the world’s largest aviation-themed studio. Their client list includes major motion picture studios, television networks, and film schools from around the globe. Films and commercials utilizing Air Hollywood’s sets and props include: “Elizabethtown” starring Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom; critically acclaimed TV series “Lost”; comedy film “Bridesmaids” starring Kristen Wiig; and the Ameriquest commercial, “Don’t Judge Too Quickly”, to name a few. In addition to airplane mock-ups, Air Hollywood provides airport terminal sets, prop rentals, set design, a fear of flying program, and they license stock footage. Very ambitious to say the least.

Leading the team is founder and CEO Talaat Captan; a movie producer who experienced the challenges first-hand of filming in and around airports. And these challenges became more evident after the events of September 11th. It was through these challenging experiences that Talaat set out to create an aviation world that would be very realistic and one that would be much easier to work within. And hence, Air Hollywood took off.

The rest of the team included Rachel, Morgan, Matt, and Toshi. All affable and accommodating. And let’s not forget Lucky, Talaat’s adorable little dog that was visiting the office for the day.

It was Rachel, the set booking agent who’s responsible for PR and marketing at Air Hollywood, who gave us the behind-the-scenes tour. She was knowledgeable and excited about leading us on the tour.

The tour began with a visit to a narrowbody (single aisle) mock-up. Once inside we were told that the interior of each of the mock-ups could be custom designed for the needs of the client or specifically configured for a specific airline. We also learned that the ceiling could be removed and the aisle widened, if needed, to accommodate lighting and cameras when filming. The mock-up included galleys, lavatories, and a cockpit. The cockpit was “open” such that filming could take place from all angles. This gave new meaning to the term “glass cockpit”. A unique feature of this mock-up was the ability to create “turbulence”. Huh? Through airbags housed underneath the mock-up platform, compressed gas could be sent to the airbags allowing for the entire mock-up to shake, rattle, and roll. While we didn’t get the opportunity to see it firsthand, we were informed that turbulence could be set on a scale of 1 to 10. And Rachel said 3 was pretty intense.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We then moved on to the “terminal”. Inside the terminal we found a check-in counter, waiting area with seats, and a security check point complete with magnetometers. Rachel explained that through strategic positioning of seats, signage, and flooring, many different looks and effects can be achieved.

The next mock-up we visited was also a narrowbody, however, it included a first class section. This mock-up, like the previous one, had moveable ceiling panels, real overhead bins, and a cockpit. And what a cockpit it was! This particular cockpit was THE cockpit used for the filming of the movie Airplane! Talk about excited! Surely we had to take a picture in this piece of aviation and film history. And don’t call me Shirley. Roger that. Roger Roger.

THE airlineguys inside THE Airplane! cockpit

Moving on from the narrowbody mock-up, we now visited a widebody (dual aisle) mock-up. The layout was that of a Boeing 767. The cabin was…spacious. If only…but we digress. On this set, the crash scene from the critically acclaimed TV series “Lost” was filmed; an intense scene made all the more real because of the details of the set provided by Air Hollywood. The widebody mock-up also includes a jetway. A few scenes of the comedy “Bridesmaids” was filmed on this jetway and inside this widebody mock-up.

Next came the props department. This was an immense area that housed a Lear jet mock-up and items needed to dress the set. There were various luggage styles categorized by period. So, if a scene called for luggage from the 70s, they have it. There was signage from various airlines. Signage also came in different colors and languages. There were telephones and telephone booths. Beverage and food carts of varying sizes included glassware and snacks that would never go stale (they were plastic). There were newspaper stands with newspapers. Need a smartcarte to haul your luggage? They had those too! Looking for a place to check in for your flight? Kiosks and ticket/gate counters were numerous. It was almost too much, yet we didn’t want to leave!

On the tour we also saw a room for hair and makeup for the actors, and a holding room for the extras who serve as passengers.

After our whirlwind tour of the facilities we had the opportunity to sit with Talaat, the CEO and founder of Air Hollywood. This man is passionate about aviation! As he spoke it was like listening to ourselves speak. He told of us of his love of all things aviation. He shared his experiences in the film industry. His love of dogs and how important the “K-9 Flight School” is to him really struck a chord in us…what a great service! Talaat also shared his desire to grow Air Hollywood’s list of services including the “Fear Of Flying Program”.

He then asked about us. We told him about our experiences in aviation (as former cabin crew, facilitators, PR ambassadors, and our penchant for discerning excellent customer service). We also shared our goal of the airlineguys: To create a community of like-minded people who love aviation; who love what air travel means (experiences that can broaden the mind and change you in a positive way); a community that chooses to focus on the positive aspects of air travel instead of the negative. And through our experiences and connections with other like-minded people, we can bring light to this often maligned marvel of physics and power.

The 3 of us agreed…we’re geeks. Avgeeks!

airlineguys Darin, Talaat, Sylvester