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In-Flight Entertainment

Need the fuselage from a 747 for a film shoot? Richard Chan is your man

Author James Bartlett Illustration Peter Oumanski

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HOLLYWOOD – The battered, disembodied cockpit sitting outside a warehouse in North Hollywood doesn’t look like much. In fact, it looks like trash. This dusty old relic, though, is a part of movie history, having played a central role in the 1980 comedy Airplane!

The cockpit was one of the first pieces of inventory acquired by Aero Mock-Ups, which was founded a little more than 25 years ago by a British ex-private pilot named Richard Chan. Since then, the company has supplied airplane-related sets to hundreds of TV shows, commercials and films—including, most recently, Argo and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Aero Mock-Ups’ building is an odd place—a clutter of seat rows, check-in desks, security gates, toilet cubicles and sections of fuselage. No job is too big or too small, Chan says—or too weird. Recently, he installed a working hot tub and a, “shall I say, exercise pole” in a plane for a rap video.

Chan spends much of his time scouring airplane boneyards, picking up parts that would otherwise be sold for scrap. “I’m the vulture at the end of the pack,” he says. “I’ll just see the interior of an aircraft and buy it all—every last fixture and fitting.”

As large as his inventory is, Chan is looking to expand: He’d really like a Goodyear blimp, he says, or a spacecraft. He also adores the Concorde, but has been unable to acquire one. Until he does, Chan will be consumed by what he calls, with a rueful shake of his head, “fuselage envy.”

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