Air Horse One: This airline is strictly for the animals

Originally shared by Fred Robel

An article about Air Horse One , a B727 freighter in our fleet:

“On a flight out of Lexington, Ky.’s Blue Grass Airport earlier this month, passengers were served hay instead of pretzels and assigned stalls instead of seats.

In the boarding process there was a bit of foot- stamping and snorting, but otherwise, the flight crew heard no complaining from the eight horses flying direct to New York on Air Horse One, the leased 727-200 aircraft the H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company uses to fly valuable race horses and show horses around the country.

Fed Ex, UPS and large commercial airlines ship horses and other animals as cargo, but Tex Sutton — as the company is commonly known — began ferrying Kentucky Derby winners and other prized horses by air in 1969 and remains the only U.S.-based horse transportation company that uses a dedicated aircraft to do so. Ticket prices top out just shy of $5,000 for a one-way trip.

During my recent visit to Blue Grass Airport, Mike Payne, Tex Sutton’s operations manager, explained that horses flying on the airline make their way between transport trailers and the airplane on custom-built ramps with high walls so that their feet never touch the ground, and so there’s little chance of having a horse get loose at the airport.

Once onboard, horses are loaded into specially built stalls that can be arranged two or three across inside the airplane. While the owners of some “celebrity” horses may charter the entire plane, Air Horse One can carry 18 to 20 horses per flight.

Thoroughbreds that have “pets,” such as goats, that help calm them in stalls on the ground can bring their buddies along on the plane — like carry-on luggage — for no extra charge. The same goes for grooms, who travel as animal couriers and get regular seats in the back of the plane.

To accommodate their special cargo, the pilots of Air Horse One make wide turns and extra-gentle ascents and descents to try to keep the horses from getting spooked or losing their balance.

“You don’t want to give them too many positive or negative G’s because their feet can slip out from under them and they can fall down,” said Payne. “Or they’ll get that floating sensation and start scrambling to find the floor.”

Like air ambulances and Air Force One, at airports around the country Air Horse One often gets preference when it comes time to take off.

“One time in Houston, there were 20 or 25 planes ahead of us and it was hot as c***,” said Payne. “The captain told the tower ‘We have a whole bunch of horses and we need to get out of Dodge fast’ and they shot us out of there on a parallel taxiway past all those planes waiting to go.”

And while Air Horse One predominantly hauls horses, Payne said the airline recently transported someone’s crated, 40-pound pet miniature cow and, separately, five dolphins.

“Everyone involved with those dolphins was very hush-hush,” said Payne, “They had a police escort and no one would say anything or answer questions, which made you think they were probably military dolphins.” ” – MSN

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