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Flying "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime"


1,350 passengers in a DC-4?

Sounds impossible until you realize that it was rhesus monkeys.  On the return trip to the United States that completed the chick mission, Transocean carried back 774 Rhesus monkeys for use in medical experiments. In 1955, Eli-Lilly was involved in the production of the Salk polio vaccine and was using the kidney tissue of these animals as a culture medium in the manufacture of life-saving polio serum. They were tarsiers, the smallest of all primates and indigenous to the Philippines. These monkeys are nocturnal, goggle-eyed tree climbers.  Exporting them from India in large numbers was done so extensively that the population was threatened, and shipping them out of the country is now prohibited. Among other animals, monkeys are sacred symbols to the Hindus, so the Indian government expected Transocean Air Lines to spirit them out of the country secretly, in the middle of the night. The plane were scheduled to depart at 4 in the morning but a mechanical delay prevented the cages from being loaded until after the aircraft had been test-flown. By that time there was enough daylight to take pictures as the little creatures were placed aboard.


Read Captain Frank Kennedy's Account 

(Above) Monkeys are loaded aboard in New Delhi, India, on the morning of June 23, 1955, With no way to circulate the air inside the aircraft while loading, hatches on both sides of the cabin were opened for ventilation. The overwhelming stench from the animal cages was indescribable.

Even though special venturi tubes had been installed down each side of the cabin for added ventilation, the sickening putrid stench emanating from the cages was overwhelming. Urine and feces collected in trays beneath their cages and there was no way to dispose of it. Accustomed to a hot, humid environment, these small animals were subject to pneumonia when flown to
altitudes where temperature and humidity were low, and could die within hours. As many as half a dozen expired during each trip.

The chore of feeding and watering the animals en route fell to a monkey handler who also had the unpleasant task of disposing of their carcasses when they died. With the help of some of the crew, the main cabin door could be pried open against the slip stream while in flight, and their bodies shoved out. The crew laughingly speculated that a future anthropologist might some day
startle the world with the announcement that rhesus monkeys had once inhabited Saudi Arabia. Several of the tiny animals escaped their ultimate fate at Eli-Lilly when ground crews along our route asked for and were given a monkey as a pet. One of the airline's captains took a fancy to the pet idea. Before landing in Indianapolis, he stashed one away in his flight case, but instead of being sent home, his aircraft was diverted to Miami, Florida, for 2 days. What to do with the monkey? He smuggled the little fellow into his room at the exclusive Fontainebleau Hotel out on Miami's "strip", where he allowed the monkey free run of his room. But when the time came to check out, his entire crew could not catch the little critter. The hotel manager finally had to be notified and the fire department called in. The captain? The police investigated, and a local judge fined him $100 for littering.

Back home, the crews’ foul-smelling clothing, thoroughly impregnated after 3 days and nights in “monkeyland”, had to be thrown away.  No amount of washing seemed to be able to rid the garments of the putrid smell. Even so, a faint, but persistent, monkey odor continued to plague the crew until it was finally discovered it was coming from their shoes. These they also had to throw away.

*Story & pictures taken from By Dead Reckoning by Ralph Lewis

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