Good Morning reddit!

My name is Dave Lange – I’m the Managing Director of the Aircraft Charters Department at FedEx Express. Basically we handle shipments that require the entire plane – from antique car collections and satellites to endangered giant pandas and race horses. Some of our most interesting (and delicate) passengers are live animals. This has included Penguins and Sea Otters displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Dolphins and Whales taking up temporary residence in Connecticut, and Giant Pandas from China.

I’ll begin answering questions at 12:00pm EDT Ask Me Anything!

*Edit - Link from FedEx Twitter

Comments: 1951 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

SwedishMoose869 karma


DavidLange954 karma

Hope you had a great flight on FedEx.

[deleted]778 karma


DavidLange770 karma

We've run charters for small pieces of machinery or IT equipment in the case of a plant or system shutdown, where the cost of the shipment paled in comparison to losing the plant. We've handled several of those situations.

jasonmb17600 karma

Two part question - is Operation Dumbo Drop your favorite movie, and if so, had you been playing Danny Glover's role - what would you have done differently to ensure safe delivery of the elephant?

DavidLange417 karma

I have seen that movie - I definitely wouldn't recommend ever dropping an elephant out of an airplane with a parachute. We likely would have gone with a land operation.

verycoolguy486 karma

Could I rent out the entire plane for a kick ass party instead of a cargo transport?

DavidLange680 karma


molrobocop407 karma

How would you handle transporting a crate full of venomous snakes? And what would be the contingency plan be if the crate had a time-release mechanism, and they were suddenly let loose inside the plan. Also, Samuel L. Jackson is on board.

DavidLange386 karma

We've never run a charter for venomous snakes before! We'll leave that to Mr. Jackson.

iaccidentlytheworld391 karma

How do you transport whales?

DavidLange588 karma

Very carefully...

We typically ship whales in a sling in a tank with water provided by the zoo or aquarium where they can be kept wet throughout transit.

Typically the aquarium's vet/caretakers will travel with the animal as attendants, making sure the whale is happy and calm throughout the trip.

The tank and the whale itself usually weigh between 5 and 6 thousand pounds, which is well within the weight limit of the plane, so that isn't a problem.

reccaikari276 karma

Have you ever shipped something and didn't know what it was? Like a sealed crate that the client asked to never be opened?

Do you think you ever illegally smuggled something without your knowledge? Or do you turn a blindeye for the paycheck?

DavidLange320 karma

No - we are required to make sure whatever we carry is legal and meets our own internal safety and security requirements, meaning, we always know exactly what we are shipping for any type of charter we operate.

Similar to a passenger airline, the cargo we carry has to go through careful security and screening processes around the world.

whatever_idc263 karma

What's the weirdest thing you ever had to transport?

DavidLange403 karma

Well, what do you consider weird! Nothing we ship is particularly weird, but just a little bit different than a charter we've done before. We've shipped rhinos, tiger sharks, penguins...all are a little bit different and require different needs.

The heaviest load we ever moved was 217,000 pounds of high protein bars from Paris to Nairobi for UNICEF.

Our job is to make sure we safely and securely deliver the animal or shipment to its destination.

grant0229 karma

The animals don't interest me as much as some of the other things you've transported, mostly because I get why you'd need to transport animals (zoos, research facilities, breeding facilities for endangered species).

But why would any person or agency that owns a satellite not also have their own airplane?

Do you ever transport top-secret items – for example, do you ever charter a plane to transport an unspecified item that nobody at FedEx is able to know about?

Do clients bring their own security aboard the plane?

Have you ever transported a person (alive or dead)?

DavidLange249 karma

The cost to maintain an airplane is significant, and cargo airplanes aren't as common. If you have a one-time requirement to ship every so often, then it doesn't make sense to own your own plane. Owning a small jet is expensive, let alone a cargo airplane.

Yes, we do transport top-secret items. Can I tell you what they are, no!

With regards to whether we transport people...With the animal shipments, like this weekend's panda delivery, attendants from the zoo/aquarium are there to administer to the safety and security, health and welfare of the animal on board. We want the animals to be as comfortable and calm as possible while on the aircraft.

siriuslyred213 karma

How much does it cost to ship a penguin? Say from just outside the New York Zoo to a small village in southern England?

DavidLange249 karma


Seriously though, the cost of shipment is the charter plane, not what you put on it. You'd have to charter the plane based on the size of the aircraft and the distance you're flying - it's not a cost per pound.

boogabooga08196 karma

What is the most expensive item that you have ever had to transport?

DavidLange254 karma

Not sure if I can say that one to protect shipper confidentiality, but we've transported cars, satellites, and other objects of high value. Some can be valued from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

LachyG142 karma

Conversely, what is the least expensive item that you have ever had to transport?

DavidLange431 karma

We're a premium service, so the monetary value of the items being shipped might not be as high as the end value to the customer. If it wasn't extremely valuable to the shipper, they wouldn't be chartering a plane with us in the first place.

It's not about dollar amount, but the speed we can deliver items when they are needed somewhere right now.

For example, moving 150,000 pounds of plastic sheeting from China to Port-au-Prince wasn't a monetarily valuable shipment, however it was extremely important to the lives of the people in Haiti.

PersonalRobotJesus162 karma

What sort of background leads to such an interesting career?

DavidLange275 karma

I'm a chemical engineer by background. I started in the oil business - my old strength of material professor told me "You never know what you're gonna end up doing," and here I am.

The job is all about planning, which is why my engineering background works for this. You have to be aware of regulatory issues, customs, internal processes and procedures, customer requirements, etc. It's a lot of logistics, organizational skills, and planning that need to work together and well at the same time to make a successful charter.

And coffee.

inshallah1370 karma

Can you hire me? I'm interested in operations and graduating this summer.

Unfortunately I don't like coffee, hope that's not a dealbreaker

DavidLange128 karma :)

youdownwithop155 karma

Do your customers still get tracking numbers?

DavidLange203 karma

In the charter world they don't get a tracking number, they get a flight number.

*We do also keep shippers updated on the status of the flight, but you can't track that on

walaska124 karma

Have you ever had something escape during transport? Die?

Ever been bitten by one of the things you were transorting?

Ever had a touching moment at work where you would have / did wave the fee?

DavidLange180 karma

When we move animals like pandas, they are shipped in specially designed enclosures that are designed to meet international animal regulation and zoo requirements. They are designed for the safety and security of the animal, so nothing has gotten loose yet!

We donate a lot of humanitarian and aid relief charters, from famine relief to natural disaster response after the Indonesian tsunami and Haitian earthquake. We feel great about those. Some of our animal shipments have also been pro-bono, like the penguins that returned home after Hurricane Katrina.

verycoolguy104 karma

How much does it cost (a range is fine) to charter an entire airplane for cargo like that? I think most people (including myself) have absolutely no idea.

DavidLange120 karma

The cost of the charter is totally dependent on the type of plane you need (size) and the distance you're traveling. Think about it as someone moving across country - if you live in a studio you can do it in a small U-Haul trailer; if you're moving a house in the suburbs you might need an 18-wheeler. It's like that when you move from a 727 to a 777. In a "block hour" - which is how we track this - the price could start at anywhere from 5 to 15 thousand dollars.

[deleted]87 karma

Do you have a favourite aircraft?

DavidLange113 karma

My favorite aircraft is the MD-11. It's the workhorse of the charter department at FedEx, and it's a great plane.

We're starting to use more 777's which is a great airplane, but the MD-11 will always have a special place in my heart.

grant087 karma

If you're transporting an animal (or other item) that requires extraordinary temperatures (below freezing, for example), does the cabin of the plane have its temperature changed, or do you essentially install a large refrigerator/sauna?

DavidLange97 karma

Temperature control is often a requirement for our shipments, from animals to pharmaceuticals.

Our fleet has planes with different capabilities that can be utilized based on the shipment's needs.

ornx68 karma

Did you feel any pressure while flying the giant pandas?

DavidLange94 karma

We're honored to be chosen as the trusted carrier for those animals. FedEx has a long track record of safe delivery with precious animals, in fact, this is the fifth pair of pandas we've delivered.

But of course there's always pressure with such public and celebrated creatures like Pandas to make sure everything is planned perfectly to ensure safe delivery.

ducktomguy55 karma

have you ever rejected a shipment for being too fragile/heavy/oddly shaped?

DavidLange79 karma

Our fleet of aircraft certainly have specific requirements (weight limits, size, for example). There have occasionally been shippers that have come to us with needs that our aircraft fleet just cant support (too heavy, too big, won't fit through the cargo door). When that happens we, regrettably, have to tell them we can't help them this time around.

[deleted]54 karma


DavidLange75 karma

Penguins are shipped in a specially designed enclosure that allows them access to food and water. We work closely with zoos, who typically provide the enclosures.

Mammeltoe37 karma

How expensive is it to transport an antique car via aircraft?

Have you ever had any disaster scenarios transporting something?

DavidLange119 karma

If you're moving one car, call 1-800-Go-FedEx. We can and do move single cars within the "scheduled service" network regularly. If you want to move 25 Formula 1 cars at a time, give me a call.

habaho32 karma

Might be a tough/broad question, but what was the most interesting/strangest thing you've ever had to deal with?


DavidLange62 karma

One of the toughest and most interesting things we face is the last minute nature of the charter business. It's like anything else. The difficulty of a charter depends a lot on how much time we have to plan it. Some people come to us with weeks or months notice, others come with days or hours.