VIDEO: Yunzi the Panda flies from LAX to Shangahi on a China Southern Boeing 777

Dear Readers:

I have failed you. There was big news at Los Angeles International Airport recently, and I missed it. reports that Yun Zi, a panda, was transported to Shanghai on a China Southern Boeing 777 Freighter. Yun Zi, born in the United States, had been at the San Diego Zoo. I don’t know much about Panda diplomacy, but the story states that an agreement between the United States and China requires Pandas to go to China before they turn 4. Apparently China retains control even of Pandas born here. (There is a fascinating New Yorker piece on a Panda issues, published in September)

According to the Air Cargo World story, Yunzi had an uneventful flight.

After welcoming the panda to an isolated storage area in Pudong Cargo Terminal, the veterinarian did an overall body check of the panda, fed him and placed him on a pallet in the designated quarantine area. Yunzi flew to Chengdu, China, and then to Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China, where his parents grew up.

The good folks at Laist put together a nice photo gallery of Yun Zi’s life in San Diego.

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Lufthansa Cargo: Inside one airline’s LAX operation

Perhaps you’re in Europe and you need a Corvette. And you want it in a few days, not a couple of months. How would you get it?

You might try Lufthansa Cargo, the German-based airline with a worldwide route network. Lufthansa Cargo flies three times a week to Los Angeles International Airport, and the airline recently allowed me to observe its operations here. For a couple of hours, the tarmac is bustling, with crews simultaneously loading and unloading cargo.

The Corvette is just one tiny piece of what Lufthansa Cargo transported on a recent evening. Read on to learn more about how it all works.

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Cargo is big business for American Airlines at LAX

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post highlighting the top air cargo operators at Los Angeles International Airport. FedEx was No. 1 – as most people might expect – but the second biggest cargo carrier surprised a bunch of readers. It was American Airlines. (UPS has a relatively small operation at LAX, preferring to fly into other area airports.)

Some readers were so skeptical of the data that I agreed to contact American to confirm. Jeff Plant, American’s managing director for LAX, told me in an email that American does in fact have a vibrant cargo operation here.

Here are some facts he shared:

  • American has a 60,000 square-foot cargo facility at the airport staffed 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
  • Cargo is sent domestically and to many destinations abroad, including Europe, Latin America, Japan, China, South Korea and Australia.
  • Common cargo includes:  perishables, pharmaceuticals, machine parts, live animals, international mail and human remains (!!!) 

According to the American Cargo website, the division has annual revenues of $669 million, serves 260 airports worldwide and has 1,100 employees. Worldwide, American transports more than 100 million pounds of cargo every week.

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FedEx’s LAX facility: Some facts you may not know

Fedex airplanes are lined up at the carrier's Indianapolis hub.

FedEx airplanes are lined up at the carrier’s Indianapolis hub. Photo courtesy of FedEx.

I visited FedEx’s vast warehouse at Los Angeles International Airport this week, a facility that, unfortunately, is off limits to photographs and video.

But I learned some interesting stuff:

  • Fedex flies almost exclusively widebody planes to LAX, using a mixture of MD-10s, MD-11s and A-300s.
  • The MD-10s are an unusual aircraft. They were initially called DC-10s, and they flew as passenger aircraft for decades. But after high-tech cockpit upgrades – they can now be flown by two pilots instead of three – they adopted a new name. The same pilots at FedEx fly the MD-10 and the MD-11, as the cockpits are similar.
  • Fedex flies between about 16 departures and 16 arrivals daily from LAX, though that  number fluctuates based on factors such as day of the week and time of the year.
  • About half of departures leave during the day, while the other half leave at night.
  • Common destinations from LAX are Memphis, Oakland, Honolulu, Fort Worth, Texas and Indianapolis. There are no international flights from the airport, though planes do fly on to Pacific destinations from Honolulu.
  • At its LAX facility, FedEx can accommodate 14 airplanes at one time.
  • Fedex is adamant about not losing your package. About 15 to 20 minutes before each flight, three different employees inspect every inch of the 800,000 square foot facility. Their goal: To make sure every last package is on board.
  • Your package is scanned two to five times as it moves through the airport facility. You won’t see those scans on, but it allows employees internally to know exactly what is happening to your package.
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