Two pandas have flown from Washington Dulles airport to Chengdu. One, a female was Mei Lan. The other, Tai Shan, is male. The flight took place February 4: as you read this a giant FedEx 777F air freighter should still be flying from Dulles International Airport with the pandas aboard. The plane is mostly empty, reserved especially for the two pandas and with big black and white panda logos painted on its fuselage.
From there they are currently making a non-stop 8,642 mile airplane journey to a new home in the mountains of central China.
FedEx Team members and the Zoo’s in Atlanta and Washington have been working over the past few weeks to prepare for the flight. The pandas travel in custom-made enclosures that allowed access to the animal care experts on board while the pandas have constant access to food and water during the trip. The flight is taking approximately 14 1/2 hours from Washington to Chengdu. The pandas are remaining in their custom-made enclosures for the duration of the flight.
Because they are flying in a 777 the flight has a trans-Atlantic routing because it is the shortest route based on approved operations for the 777 aircraft instead of going the route over the North Pole or the Pacific, based on the great circle.
This is not the first experience Fedex has had with pandas. It transported Tai Shan’s parents to the US in 2000 and transported two giant pandas from China to the Memphis Zoo in 2003.
Panda signs will remain on the aircraft for a short while.
Washington Post reports Tai Shan and Mei Lan are travelling on an International Air Waybill but are not being tracked in the traditional FedEx manner. They have not been invited to visit the cockpit.