How To Ship A Whale (And Other Advice From A FedEx Guru)

Horses and pandas and whales, oh my.
© Jacob Slaton Photography

For the past five years, Dave Lange has handled all FedEx shipments that require a chartered plane, coordinating deliveries of the big, weird, and extra important. His techniques put your stamps and envelopes to shame.

Popular Science: When the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago renovated in 2008, you flew its seven whales to a host aquarium. So how does a whale travel?

Lange: Each one is in a metal container, which has a sling, where the whale sits. The box isn’t completely filled with water; there’s just enough to keep the animal moist.

PS: If you’re moving many animals together on a plane, how do you decide where to put each one?

Lange: The plane has to be balanced, so they have to be in certain positions. But you still want everyone to be calm during the flight: You don’t want to put stallions next to mares. That’s not a good idea.

PS: What’s the craziest delivery you’ve ever done?

Lange: I had to arrange my first panda charter in 13 days, which is a really quick turnaround. We were moving two panda cubs from the U.S. to China and didn’t get approval from the Chinese government until two days before we operated.

PS: And the biggest one?

Lange: The heaviest shipment we did—it set a record for FedEx—was a famine-relief charter from Paris to Nairobi. We carried almost 218,000 pounds of high-protein bars, which could feed 4,000 people for two weeks.

PS: What are you working on now?

Lange: Our next shipment is two planes carrying 77 horses from Liege, Belgium, to Doha, Qatar. You never know what you’re going to get at this job. It could be anything.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Popular Science.