In Honor of National Aviation Month – Strange Things Shipped by Air Freight

November is National Aviation Month, which can mean different things to different people. For most, it probably means nothing. For history buffs, it’s a great time to learn more about their favorite plane, pilot, or era in flying. As a logistics company, we of course are interested in the shipping aspect of flying, so we’ll be dedicating some social media time to air freight between now and December 17th, the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight in Kittyhawk in 1903.

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be talking about how to ship items by air and the pros and cons of air freight, useful information for those of you with products to ship. But today, it’s all about the strange things that have been shipped by plane.

Let’s start in our own backyard. Cincinnati may seem like an unlikely place to rehabilitate manatees, but it is actually one of only three places in the country that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. This is due in large part to the amazing staff at the Cincinnati Zoo. But it may also have to do with the fact that one of DHL’s three global hubs is located at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, less than an hour from the zoo. Just last month DHL flew a Florida manatee back to her home state after her two-year rehabilitation at the Cincinnati Zoo. In January 2014, the airline flew one manatee from here to Florida, then brought two more back to the zoo the next day for rehabilitation. How exactly do you ship a manatee? In a special padded crate with an open top, at 70 degrees, as far away from the engines as possible, and with at least one zoo employee for emergencies.

Formula 1 racing consists of 19 races in eight months on six continents. Each of the 11 teams brings two cars and thousands of pounds of equipment to each location. While the end result of this for fans is an exhilarating racing season, all of these numbers add up to an unusual and challenging load for an air cargo carrier like DHL. Unless two consecutive races are occurring close enough to each other that trucks can be used, every car, spare part, and enough equipment to fill six Boeing 747 jumbo jets has to be loaded and flown to the next race in a very short period of time.

DHL is not the only cargo airline that ships unusual items. In a 2014 video on their website, FedEX talks about some of the weirdest things they have shipped. They include 19 penguins and two sea otters after Hurricane Katrina, 630 tons of Beaujolie Nouveau wine to France, 70,000 turtle eggs, and 90 tons of artifacts from the Titanic, including a 3,000 pound chunk of the hull. A managing director from the aircraft charters department at FedEX discussed other strange things that have been sent by charter plane. Some of the most memorable were giant pandas from China, tiger sharks, whales, and rhinos. The heaviest load he recalls moving was 217,000 pounds of protein bars to Nairobi for UNICEF. Shipping 150,000 pounds of plastic sheeting by charter plane may seem like a waste of money, but when you find out that it was being shipped to Haiti after a devastating earthquake to provide a bit of shelter, this shipment doesn’t seem so unusual.

The most unbelievable air shipment in my mind ended up being someone’s dinner. In 2014, DHL delivered a curry dish from a particular restaurant in Europe to Africa. And not just once, on a weekly basis. That’s some serious carry-out!