MIDNIGHT FLIGHT UPDATE — The Airline that Never Takes Off

December 2002

Talaat Captan is hardly a household name but he is making his way through the Hollywood scene. At one time he wanted to be a flight attendant. He still fondly remembers his interview for the position of “steward” with Pan American World Airways in New York in the seventies. He still vividly remembers the exhilaration of the moment when he was invited in the training class in Miami, FL. He also remembers clearly the disappointment when he was told that his starting salary would $11,000/year – hardly enough for a young flamboyant man to live on. He politely declined and in due course made his small fortune as a Hollywood film producer.

But he never lost his weakness for flying and has made a number of movies that involved airplanes, airports and flying. While his career has become financially rewarding, it was not without stress, especially when he had to cut through the red tape at the airports, or when he had to beg airlines for special concessions. Finally, when he was denied the permission to film scenes at Los Angeles International Airport, he decided to take a big step – to build a mock-up of an airport and airplanes in a studio-like environment, that would cut down on the red tape and the expenses associated with filming on location.

He organized a group of investors, and with $2 million in capital rented a large warehouse in San Fernando Valley and the construction of one of the largest aviation sets in the movie world began. Air Hollywood was born. It took nine months to build the facility and when it was ready for business in August, he faced the toughest part – in spite of advertising, the phones were not ringing. He used the set, which contains a 200 foot long airport concourse, security checkpoints, waiting areas and ticket counters and mock-ups of a B-777 and a partial mock-up of a B-737 to produce a film of his own.

After that, he began to wonder where the money to pay bills would be coming from. Until September 11. That’s when the phones in his office started to ring – and they kept on ringing to the point that the company had to keep the facility running in overtime, at times billing movie companies as much as $10,000 for a single day. He never had to look back and he estimated that the net profits for the first year will be about $1.5 million. Ironically, Air Hollywood’s list of clients included real airlines such as JetBlue and American Airlines. They had to use Air Hollywood facilities to shoot commercials for their companies.

Air Hollywood facilities were used also in Fox’s TV series “America’s Most Wanted,” and a 20th Century Fox film starring Ben Affleck, “Daredevil.” Other productions were “Like Mike,” “Not Another Teen Movie,” and TV series include “JAG,” and “Providence” among other and commercials for Radio Shack. Captan is not just making movies.

Air Hollywood is now checking into the feasibility of offering classes to people who suffer from fear of flying. This problem involves about 25 million Americans and their problem is very real. Some of those people are truly handicapped by it because they cannot take jobs that involve flying. With a careful and sensitive approach, many individuals can learn to overcome their fear.

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