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Used Airline Equipment Enjoys “Second” and Even “Third Life” in the Movies

13 JUL 2012
Career Path : ground support equipment

So many movie scenes take place at the airport. After all, the tarmac is a place of transition, a place of goodbyes, a place of change – all good dramatic fodder. But have you ever wondered how film studios manage to make these scenes? Where do they get the aircraft and ground support equipment in the first place?


Some cinematic productions, such as the Battle of Britain (1969) or Catch-22 (1970) feature so many pieces of used airline equipment, including ground support equipment, that their fleets constitute some of the largest air forces in the world. In many cases, former air force people must be brought in as advisors.


When a scene in a movie featuring used airline equipment, especially used military equipment, misses the mark – showing the exterior of one kind of jet and the interior of another, for instance – the film makers will often hear about it. Savvy directors know that some audience members may have firsthand knowledge about aircraft and ground support equipment. It’s important to pay attention to the details.


According to one article in the Wall Street Journal, most of the aircraft and ground service equipment currently used in Hollywood belongs to external film studios that specialize in airport scenes. This means that they provide equipment, rent sets and provide expert advice.


There are two main companies that specialize in used airline equipment for use in film: Air Hollywood in Pacoima, Los Angeles and Aero Mock-Ups in North Hollywood. Companies like these offer everything from porthole exteriors to airport-appropriate garbage cans.


In addition to offering used airline equipment, Air Hollywood, which provided the on-board bathroom used in the Jennifer Aniston movie Rumor Has It, offers stock footage for airport and in-air scenes.


Competitor Aero Mock-Ups offers a selection of props for ground support equipment scenes on the tarmac, including maintenance stairs, runway lights, airline cargo containers and wind socks.


Some movie scenes feature actual used ground support equipment in active service at real-life airports. The 1970 film Airport, based on the Arthur Hailey novel of the same name, was filmed largely at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.


Used airline equipment, including ground service equipment, can have a glamorous “second life” in the film industry, which, in some cases, even spawns a “third life” in the form of aviation-in-film buff trivia. I leave you now with two such pieces of trivia involving the aforementioned film Airport.


Used airline equipment trivia break #1


The Boeing 707 used in the production of Airport eventually met with a tragic end during a crash landing in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Used airline equipment trivia break #2


In the movie Airport, there is a made-up airline called Trans Global. Ground support equipment buffs can (and do) pick out props blazoned with the Trans Global logo in a host of subsequent Universal productions. Now you can join their ranks.


Visit GTA Aviation for more information on ground support equipment.