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Oscars land in LA ahead of ceremony

Passengers on United Airlines Flight 531 from Chicago to Los Angeles did not just get to travel with a world-famous celebrity, they also had their picture taken with him.

The affable celebrity was Oscar - as in the Academy Awards statuette - who rode in first class alongside film academy president Tom Sherak before making the rounds during the five-hour commercial flight to pose for photos.

Mr Sherak surprised passengers just before they boarded the flight, dubbed Oscar 1, at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

He arrived with the Oscar in hand and announced that the famous golden statue would be flying with them.

Actually, there were two Oscars which will be presented for best picture at this year's Academy Awards.

Passengers used mobile phones and pocket cameras to snap photos with the Oscars as airline workers held a show-related trivia contest, awarding hoodies and hats from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"This is the closest I'm ever going to be to having one, so I'm enjoying it," Rockford Yapp, of Chicago, said as he held the coveted trophy. The 52-year-old also won an Oscar sweatshirt because he was sitting in the 84th seat on the plane. The 84th annual Academy Awards will be presented on February 26 at the Kodak Theatre and broadcast on ABC.

Mr Sherak said this is the first time Oscars have flown commercially out in the open. The statuettes, which have been made at Chicago's RS Owens foundry for more than 70 years, are typically shipped to Los Angeles with little fanfare.

The pilot even allowed an Oscar into the cockpit of the 757 before takeoff, calling the statuette his most prestigious "non-human" passenger yet. "It's a special treat. We want everyone to enjoy the flight and enjoy the show," said Captain Mel Mason Jr.

The Oscar celebration continued at Los Angeles International Airport. Gold and silver balloons and oversized Oscar posters decorated the arrival gate. As passengers left the plane, each was given an Oscar of their own - a tiny, chocolate version.

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