Hollywood studio teaches dogs how to fly on planes
LOS ANGELES (AP) — For $349, your dog can learn to fly.
One Hollywood film studio now prepares dogs for a safe and calm flight.
The Air Hollywood class includes a real fuselage on a sound stage with a simulator that mimics takeoff, turbulence and landing. Hollywood extras create crowds and the chaos that come with airport terminals.
Talaat Captan, president and CEO of Air Hollywood, the world’s largest aviation-themed film studio, had the idea after noticing a dog owner having a rough time getting the dog through airport security.
“The owner was stressed out, and the dog was freaking out,” Captan said. “I figured, ‘Why don’t I train those people?’”
He hired his friend and former actress, Megan Blake, to write a program and teach the class with three other instructors and her dog Super Smiley. An animal trainer and lifestyle coach, Blake also has a psychology degree.
With more dogs on planes these days, it makes sense to take obedience school to a new level, said Heidi Heubner, who directs volunteers, including airport therapy dogs, at Los Angeles World Airport.
Dogs have become essential parts of a growing number of families, and traveling with is becoming more common, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesman for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association in Texas.
It will vary by airline, but there’s always a fee for pets in the cabin. Working dogs or trained service animals fly free, but owners must give the airline documentation and advance notice. The animals sit at their owner’s feet during flights. The class doesn’t address cargo pets.
The class is using the same studio where parts of “Bridesmaids,” ″Kill Bill” and 500 other movies were made.
Last year, Air Hollywood conducted a test class with 60 puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
“Some of the handlers were more nervous than the dogs because they don’t like to fly,” said Rick Wilcox, who oversees puppy-training in Southern California. “It was amazing how realistic it was.”
Captan opened his studio about six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S. On Sept. 12, the phone started ringing because airports were locked down and movie and television studios couldn’t shoot scenes they needed.
The studio has grown to include everything from a private jet to a 747, as well as props and supplies.
The dogs sit at their handlers’ feet in the cabin during the simulated flight, which came with engine sounds, the captain speaking, cabin lights being dimmed, overhead bins being shut and warm-up vibrations, Wilcox said.
When a dog gets nervous, it might clamp its jaw, lick its lips or get wide-eyed, Blake said. With the dogs in the test class, petting was enough to reassure them, she said.
″‘If a dog gets nervous, don’t coddle them.’ That’s the same thing we use to raise confident, well-balanced dogs,” Wilcox said.