Flying "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime"
Operation "Noah's Ark"
Transocean Air Lines' "Noah's Ark," a DC-4 especially equipped for live freight, made history in 1954. On its first assignment, the big plane "magic carpeted" 550 rabbits, thirty goats, and two million bees from California to Pusan, South Korea, for the Church World Service's Heifer Project, which was established to aid the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged countries of the free world.
The goats traveled in double-deck, pullman style pens designed by Transocean's chief engineer, Al Macedo. The rabbits were placed in lightweight crates and the bees in apartment-type hives fitted with automatic syrup feeders.
It was the first mass movement of such a variety of animals and insects, all of which appeared to enjoy the 8,000-mile flight and offered no complaints about the airline food. The goats and rabbits were needed to restock South Korea's livestock. And without the bees to pollinate the crops, a food crisis would have made this country suffer even more. Because the bee feeders wouldn't operate at the usual flight altitude, the long flight was made at 4,000 feet above the water. The operation attracted world wide attention to Transocean. It was covered by all of the wire services, major San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, radio and television stations, and newsreels. One newsreel alone carried it to an audience of 80 million people.
On the return flight, 1,900 monkeys were transported from Manila to Savannah, Georgia, for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis' Polio Serum Project. In May, Noah's Ark returned to the Pacific to transport another 1,900 monkeys to Savannah for the foundation's research program.
On another flight carrying things zoological, TAL Flight Operations in Oakland lost track of one of the DC-4 transports en route from Manila to Oakland. On board were dozens of various animals, reptiles, and birds consigned to zoos around the country. After hours of radio silence from the aircraft and from other airports, Oakland received this cable: DELAYED FOUR HOURS GUAM STOP REPTILES IN EMPENNAGE STOP. This message came after a young airport attendant opened the door to the baggage compartment, only to come face to face with a huge lizard. He was so frightened that he screamed and took off running toward the terminal. The flight crew, now experienced as animal handlers, performed a lizard roundup and returned the wily reptile to its cage. The flight continued.
Transporting anything and everything was simply a matter of getting it through the door of the airplane. Photo: Ralph Lewis