Animals seen from the tower – chicken in boxes
Animals flown by air seemed to create all kinds of difficulties. The local airline had a number of elderly turboprops, with a few years' worth of flying time left in them, and these were converted for cargo duty. The catch was they had no big cargo doors, neither was there any chance for a retrofit. So they carried only stuff which could pass through the original openings. In spite of this limitation, they were pretty busy most of the time.
When one of the big farms started exporting live chickens, it was only natural they should come for help to the national airline. The cargo people were happy, as the chicks, one day old at the time of transport, were housed in nice cardboard boxes, 101 chicks to a box. The supernumerary plus 1 chick was supposedly to account for the unavoidable casualties while in transit. Now can you imagine the stench and noise created by a few tons of day old chicks? Most could not, but according to the crews it was quite phenomenal.
The first few flights went well, but then summer came, and one day they found half the "passengers" dead on arrival at destination. The Arab buyer refused to accept the shipment and even threatened to break the contract if this ever happened again. Since a lot of money had been riding on those flights, the experts got together to investigate. They traced events right from the moment the chicks were hatched in their mechanical mother, through transport to the airport and finally to the loading operation. Everything appeared in order. Next, they wanted to look at the flight itself.
Chicks loaded, doors closed, ready to start engines … and this is where they found the glitch. The air conditioning system of these old planes had never been particularly good, but its designer, bless his soul, probably never in his wildest dream had imagined that his contraption would have to feed fresh air to chicken … Half of the poor birds were Dead from lack of oxygen and high temperature before the plane had even left the stand. Careful calculations shown that once in the air the engines could ventilate the cabin adequately, but there was just no way to do this while the plane was on the ground. Sometimes a solution was found, however.
Air traffic control was asked to handle the chicken flights with priority, so reducing to a minimum the time from engine start to take-off, while at the same time the plane would taxi and take-off with the doors, which opened inwards, wide Open. It was quite a sight to see these old birds lumber into the air with the two, gaping black holes in the fuselage and we did not want to even think about the crew member detailed to close the doors …
This was not the end of the story, however. That summer had been a real beast from a traffic point of view. Flights were being delayed left, right and center and the finely orchestrated chicken operation started to go sour once again. A 15 minute departure delay, a mere annoyance for human passengers, was a sure death warrant as far as the chicks were concerned.
Now you must know that, by international agreement, certain categories of flights are never delayed, no matter what. These include ambulance flights, aircraft on search and rescue or humanitarian missions, as well as flights carrying head of state types. Could air traffic control somehow have the chicken flights included in one such category? – came the polite request from the airline. They seemed very reluctant to take no for an answer, quoting big money, the national interest and the possible wrath of the "greens", so ATC had no choice but to bring up the subject at the next regional meeting dealing with air traffic flow management .
The matter drew a lot of smiles and head shaking, but the delegates' persuasive powers and vivid description of the sad sight of a planeload of dead chicks finally secured a kind of victory. One could not really expect to put the word "chicken" in the text of a multilateral agreement, but if you ever have the chance to look closely at one of these early documents, you will find a sentence giving exemption from flow management delays to flights "As specifically requested by State authorities". Like flights carrying live chicken, of course …
The mouse story
Even mice were not immune to getting mixed up in aviation competitors. A family of four were returning from Cairo for a long overdue holiday. Their children loved animals, and in their home on fashionable Zamalek-Island you could find a collection of birds, turtles, cats and dogs as well as a family of white mice. This latter consistent of an old male, famous for his adventures outside of marriage, the white / gray mice caught in the neighborhood providing ample evidence of this, a female, and twelve tiny offspring, born a few days before the family (the human family , That is …) was due to leave for their holiday. It was reliably easy to find foster parents for most of the house-depots for the period they would be away, with the exception of the mice. No one seemed especially keen to have them, even for a short time, like four weeks. Although the head of the family had seen this as a perfect occasion to dispose of the mice once and for all, in the end the children prevailed, and so the mice boarded the plane together with the rest of the family, hidden in an innocent looking Cardboard box. Once on the plane, the box got deposited under the elder boy's seat, the cushions thankfully blocking the funny, scrapping noises emanating from the box. All went well during the first hour, but only because nobody had been aware what the old male was up to. It would seem he took extremely unkindly to being locked up in such tight quarters with his family, and in any case his instincts must have told him that here was the big chance for some international adventure …
In a little over an hour he managed to chew his way way out of the box and all of a sudden he appeared on the edge of the red carpet running the length of the center aisle. A small, white, furry spot, but a mouse, neverheless. A fellow passenger, a lady and a friend of the family who was privy to their secret, silently got up, walked casually to the boy and again without pointing to the carpet. It was too late, however. Our little knight had advanced by at least two rows of seats and one of the stews was walking down towards them, with a tray of drinks in her hands. It was clear that grabbing for the mouse would be nothing short of inviting disaster, so all they could do was to watch in silent horror … The girl did not notice a thing. As it happened, the little mouse managed the ride all the way home without once being noticed. He did reappear regularly at various spots but none of the passengers or crew seemed to see him. Maybe this had to do with the fact that you do not really expect to see a white mouse aboard an airliner, and if you were to see one, you would probably put it down to too much free booze … As a credit to Motherly instincts, mamma mouse and her little ones had not ventured out of the box.
On arrival the mice, minus daddy of course, got smuggled through customs, only to end up in a pet shop as, after this, even the boys were afraid of what might happen on the return trip.
An aircraft must be a lonely place for a flirtatious mouse, but our little escapee must have seen something in it after all. It was after several months, and without doubt countless trips all over Europe, that a small news item in one of the local papers announced his sad passing from the world. He had been done, but not before sending a stew, with a tray of drinks in her hands, flying into the lap of the nearest passenger on board a flight to London …
Lethal regulations …
At one airport thy had their own family of mice. They lived happily in the under-floor cable ducts and had the habit of appearing in the small hours of the night, scaring the hell out of female assistants. Traps were set, poison boxes were put in corners, but at least one hardy little animal had learned to avoid all the dangers and continued his (her?) Nightly forays. In time people working there great quite fond of him and in spite of the protests voiced by the girls, controllers started feeding him, leaving bread crumbs and the like on the floor, near the place where he usually appeared.
His boldness was quite amazing. Sometimes he would climb out of his hole in broad daylight, sniff around and then wait with shiny black eyes until someone bought him his lunch.
Around this time the ATC authority was busy distributing a brand new edition of a book entitled "Procedures for Air Navigation Services", the "bible" of air traffic control. Several hundred copies were stored all over the place, awaiting pick up by controllers and other interested parties. It was several weeks later that they noticed that their little friend was missing. His lunch and dinner went untouched, his daily appearances gone. While most of the controllers were mourning for him, others looked up the whole thing as a favorable development.
Mouse or no mouse, slowly they got to the bottom row of the books. This last batch was to be left in storage to satisfy future requests for the document. They were about to put them in a specially assigned metal cabinet when they found the mouse. He was dead, directed to half his normal size, lying in the middle of the remains of one of the books. Almost he had chewed into two pages of definitions, one page of aerodrome control and a few pages of radar procedures … a deadly mix by anyone's standards.