Washington Post Live Chat with FedEx: Shipping Pandas to China
Tai Shan will fly Feb. 4 nonstop from Dulles International Airport aboard a giant FedEx 777F air freighter. The plane will be mostly empty, reserved especially for him and one other panda, and will have big black and white panda logos painted on its fuselage.
Dave Lange, managing director of aircraft charters at FedEx, was online Friday, Jan. 29, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss all the details of Tai Shan’s 8,642 mile airplane journey to his new home in the mountains of central China.
Dave Lange: Hi, Dave Lange here, Director of FedEx Charters, I’m here to discuss Tai Shan and Mei Lan’s trip to China next week.
Fairfax, Va.: Are preparations being made now for the Feb. 4 trip? Is the plane being loaded soon? Will Tai Shan have a fellow panda passenger?
Dave Lange: FedEx Team members and the Zoo’s in Atlanta and Washington having been working over the past few weeks to prepare for the flight next week. The flight will be loaded the morning of departure and Mei Lan will travel with Tai Shan on the flight to China
Wellesley, Mass.: I am curious why does FedEx choose the Atlantic route to China? I fly to China 4-5 times a year. All U.S.-China commercial flights go through either North Pole route or the Pacific, based on the great circle.
Dave Lange: We chose the trans-Atlantic routing because it is the shortest route based on our approved operations for the 777 aircraft.
Annandale, Va.: What will the pandas eat on the plane? Will they be sedated so they can sleep most of the way? Thank you!
Dave Lange: The Panda will have an assortment of foods on the aircraft including bamboo and water. I have no information regarding sedation, that is a question for the Zoos.
Annapolis, Md.: Has FedEx participated in shipping pandas before?
Dave Lange: Yes, FedEx transported Tai Shan’s parents to the US in 2000 and transported the 2 Giant Pandas from China to the Memphis Zoo in 2003.
Brielle, N.J.: My heart is breaking over Tai Shan’s departure but glad to know he is traveling in style. Will this panda plane be used again as part of your fleet, keeping its panda markings? And is this a direct nonstop flight for the pandas?
Dave Lange: Yes, the 777 aircraft is part of our normal fleet and will be put back into service after the FedEx Panda Express flight has operated. The markings will stay on the aircraft for a short period of time after the flight.
Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hi Dave, thanks for taking questions. What is the cost of this trip and who is paying for Tai Shan’s travel?
Dave Lange: We are not disclosing the dollar cost of the flight itself, but it’s hard to put a price tag on helping to save an endangered species by returning the pandas to breeding habitats. We are donating our services and honored to be called upon to provide for their safe journey.
Annandale, Va.: How many hours is the plane flight to China? How much room will they have to move around in the plane?
Dave Lange: The flight is expected to take approximately 14 1/2 hours from Washington to Chengdu. The Pandas will remain in their custom-made enclosures for the duration of the flight.
Fredericksburg, Va.: Is the “custom-made enclosure” that white crate I saw Tai Shan playing on at the zoo last week? What’s it made of?
Dave Lange: No it’s not… FedEx provided funds for two custom built transport containers for the pandas to travel in during the flight.
Springfield, USA: Will the Tai Shan shipment receive a FedEx tracking number, and if so can it be tracked via the tracking website?
Dave Lange: Tai Shan and Mei Lan will be traveling on a International Air Waybill but not tracked in the traditional FedEx manner.
Dave Lange: Thanks for chatting with me! Bye.