It’s not every day that you receive an invitation to board the Albatross One, a 1951 Grumman HU16B seaplane that was designed after World War 2 to conduct search and rescue missions by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard in big body water.As the only plane of its kind in operation today, Albatross One was purchased by Row 44, the leader in providing in-flight broadband connectivity and wireless in-flight entertainment for commercial aircraft.
Albatross One was a smart investment for Row 44. The twin-radial engine amphibious “flying boat,” which at one time held 30 passengers and was outfitted with bunk beds for military survivors, has been restored. Row 44 also made some improvements, including high definition live television and high-speed broadband and streaming Video-on-Demand, turning Albatross One into the company’s flying test lab. The company’s engineers can now test the various components of Row 44’s offerings in a stable flight environment, improving functionality and innovations for Row 44’s in-flight services for today’s sophisticated consumers who command high quality connectivity regardless of their location.
At this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES, 2013) in Las Vegas, where getting the attention of the media is a major undertaking, Priority PR was successful in convincing a number of high profile media outlets to join us on a junket that many reporters described as “very cool” and “the best product tests ever experienced.”
Priority PR organized the media tour to promote the launch of Global Eagle Entertainment, a new company formed by entertainment industry veterans Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansky. By combining the technology, intelligence and services of US-based Row 44 with the innovative entertainment and studio licensed content of Germany’s Advanced Inflight Alliance and adding the Hollywood studio knowledge and experience of Sloan and Sagansky, Global Eagle is on its way of becoming the dominant and profitable worldwide innovator and distributor of in-flight internet, movies and other services.
A test flight aboard Albatross One was our way of making an impressive introduction.
We started this adventure by hiring a fleet of Mercedes Benz SUV’s to transport our guests to the Henderson Executive Terminal Airport, which is located about 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas. After takeoff and reaching about 15,000 feet, the media was able to test out all the latest and greatest Wi-Fi services that are in development and coming to airline passengers in the near future. There was also a chance to interview our top executive team as they gave hands-on demonstrations to our guests.
While the beautiful sunny January day promised a smooth flight, our pilot, Dave Cummings, kept our hearts racing with spectacular views and dare-devil maneuvers. As Albatross One soared high above the Hoover Dam, considered the world’s biggest dam, we announced our first photo opportunity and our guests whipped out their cell phones to take and send pictures to family and friends. Talk about a picture being worth one thousand words!
As our “Howard Hughes in residence,” Captain Cummings invited our guests to take a turn in the plane’s jump seat, located in the nose of the plane, as he proceeded to make several landings on Lake Mead.
Lying flat on their bellies in the jump seat, our guests peered out a small window on the bottom of the plane as Captain Cummings made several splash landings. Left breathless by the water landings and “close to the mountain” takeoffs, the experience left an indelible impression and created an ideal impression from which to launch Global Eagle Entertainment’s innovative in-flight services.
While the affable and knowledge Cummings became an instant celebrity, the tour also provided a uninterrupted opportunity for our executives to speak with and exchange contact details with the journalists aboard.
Journalists also learned that Albatross One has been on loan to NASA as a “training site” for its space shuttle pilots, who are required to fly a series of “odd” and “unusal” aircraft as part of their mission training. Leaving an historical and indelible mark, the space shuttle pilots have added their signatures to one wall of the plane after completing their flights.
When the thrilling one-hour in-flight demonstration was completed, the media were shuttled back to the Las Vegas Convention center and dropped off at the CES event. And in spite of all the ground breaking technology on display on the convention floor, thanks to Albatross One, it all seemed a bit ho-hum.