Marking its 70th anniversary, Cessna Aircraft celebrated in style at its annual off-site event held last September 22 during the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. The guests of honor were titans of the aviation industry--10 Cessna aircraft, including the Citation X (above), touted by the company as the world's fastest business jet. The venue to house such industry heavyweights was, appropriately, four airplane hangars, covering approximately 235,000 sq. ft. (21,150 sq. m) of Jet East Inc. in Dallas' Love Field Airport. LD Randy Taylor of Carollton, TX-based Design & Productions stepped in to spotlight the aircraft and create a party atmosphere for the approximately 3,000 people who wined and dined at bars and food tents set up on the tarmac.

"The idea the last few years has been to light all of the planes white and use color on the buildings and stages," says Taylor, who lit the 1996 Cessna event in Orlando. "They want to keep the planes very white because they want people to see the product. This is the first year they let me use color."

While Taylor illuminated the majority of the aircraft in white, using a combination of ETC Source Fours and PARs, he reserved a more colorful approach for Cessna's top-of-the-line model. "We lit the Citation X with [Vari*Lite(R)] VL5s(TM)," explains Taylor. "Color was used subtly until the end of the evening when members of the Dallas Symphony performed the finale accompanied by a light show on the aircraft."

Taylor enlisted Benny Kirkham to run the Vari*Lite Artisan(R) control console. "I told Benny what I was looking for, stuck in a cassette, and said this is the music they're playing. I then left him to deal with the crew in the other hangars," says Taylor.

The total equipment package included: 42 Vari*Lite VL5s, one Artisan console, eight High End Cyberlights(R), 64 six-PAR bars, 94 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, 120 single PAR cans, four 4k HMI fresnels, and eight generators. Intelecon Services Inc. of Dallas supplied the conventional lights and production labor. Daryl's By Design in Dallas was the producer.

Besides keeping all of the generators fueled up and working, Taylor says the major challenge was lighting such large stars. "You're very worried about working over these expensive planes, so you tape out where all of the planes are going to go and hang everything up before they get there," he says.

But next year, Taylor is hoping to further accommodate his client with an upgraded equipment list. "We're talking about possibly lighting all of the airplanes with automated fixtures," he adds. "I told them we can shift the airplanes around and I don't have to get up on a lift and work over their $22-million baby." As far as adding color to the mix, Taylor said Cessna liked it, they really liked it. "I thought some of the executives wouldn't go for all of the color because we used hard saturated blues, greens, reds, and magentas on the jet," says Taylor. "But they did. Somebody even said, 'What are we going to do next year to top it?' And I said, 'Light them all with Vari*Lites.'"