Thursday 18 December 2014

Hollywood dogs get flying lessons

Published 11/09/2013 | 13:11

Dog owners and their pets in the simulator (AP)
Dog owners and their pets in the simulator (AP)
Earthbound - dogs in California are getting lessons on how to travel by air

Now, for the dog that has everything, flying lessons. Security checks and bumpy air are all in a day's training at a Hollywood film studio to prepare dogs for a safe and calm flight.

The Air Hollywood class is billed as the first in a real fuselage on a sound stage with a simulator that mimics take-off, turbulence and landing. Hollywood extras create crowds and chaos that come with terminals, luggage carts and the blare announcing arrivals, delays and departures.

The idea was the brainchild of Talaat Captan, president of Air Hollywood, the world's largest aviation-themed film studio, who noticed a dog owner having a hard time getting a pet through airport security.

"The owner was stressed out and the dog was freaking out," Mr Captan said. "I figured, 'Why don't I train those people?'"

He hired his friend and former actress, Megan Blake, to teach the class with three other instructors and her dog Super Smiley. An animal trainer and lifestyle coach, Ms Blake also has a psychology degree from Georgia State University.

With more dogs racking up air miles 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.

There are no numbers on how many pets are taking to the skies, but they have become essential parts of a growing number of families and traveling with them for work and play is becoming more common, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesman for the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.

The class is using the same studio where parts of "Bridesmaids," ''Kill Bill" and 500 other movies were made. Television scenes from "NCIS," ''Modern Family" and "The Newsroom" have also been filmed there.

Last year, Air Hollywood conducted a test class with 60 puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The dogs sit at their handlers' feet in the cabin during the simulated flight, which comes with engine sounds, the captain speaking, cabin lights being dimmed, overhead bins being shut and warm-up vibrations.

Press Association

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