Photo credit: dnata

Once upon a time, the sea was king when it came to transporting cargo. Massive ships hauled incredible amounts of containers from one side of the world to the other. Now, some of these containers take flight instead due to the speed and gentleness of air travel, as well as continuing advancements in air cargo handling. In fact, the cargo facilities at Changi Airport hold items you would least expect! We speak to Dubai National Air Transport Association (dnata) Singapore, one of the ground handling and cargo service providers at Changi, to uncover some of the most interesting items they have flown.

Supercars and helicopters

Luxury car being transported by a plane

Singaporeans love their luxury cars so it’s no surprise that some have their eyes on cars unavailable through local dealers. Photo credit: dnata

One of the more surprising items to be transported by air are helicopters! It is actually more fuel and time efficient to load it up on a cargo aircraft, and fly it from point to point. Moreover, choppers are usually dismantled into individual components before being packed into a crate.

Another exciting mode of transport you can occasionally find in dnata’s cargo hold section, are supercars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, you name it, they’ve had to handle it in their facility spanning over 32,000 sqm. Car collectors and fanatics would drool at the sight of some of these rare and vintage cars.

Supercars aren’t the only vehicles that sport the latest technology to come in by air — armoured vehicles are transported in cargo aircraft as well! Some are even equipped with upgrades like bulletproof windows, made specially to protect visiting dignitaries in emergencies.

Musical instruments worth millions

Classical music instruments from an orchestra

A single high quality, hand-crafted cello costs at least USD$10,000

Classical music is best enjoyed by those with delicate ears, capable of detecting the slightest irregularity in a musical performance. Likewise, the instruments used in concerts that cater to these audiences are highly delicate. Each instrument is extremely precious, very costly, and have an extremely stringent set of maintenance requirements.

In fact, dnata was tasked with handling and storing equipment from The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the world’s leading orchestras. This is what they had to say about their experience:

“Some of these instruments were invaluable — so old and sensitive that the temperature and humidity in tropical Singapore would have had a detrimental effect on their condition and quality. The instruments were delivered to our Coolchain facility in a refrigerated truck, where it was stored in temperature controlled units. Five orchestra ‘roadies’ were onsite to monitor the handling of the instruments, which was intentionally organised at night when temperatures are slightly milder.”

Animals that fly without wings

Group of Emperor penguin chicks

Cargo handlers are trained by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore in basic animal care

Apart from humans, animals can be part of the airport transit as well! In fact, penguins and sharks are among some of the most interesting animals that have been handled as precious cargo through Changi Airport. There’s a wide range of reasons why one would transport animals — wildlife preservation, transfers between zoos and even individual pet owners who are migrating and want to take their little fluff balls along.

Regulations are strict when it comes to flying living things. Cargo companies will reject clients if they deem the flight to be hazardous to the health of the animal. There are also a whole list of requirements that has to be fulfilled before they are ready to take off. For example, the dimensions of the cargo boxes that hold the animals are required to have enough space for them to turn around, sit down and stand up comfortably.

With the development of the air cargo industry, we may just have to think twice before uttering the phrase ‘only when pigs fly’!  That’s because, however impossible,  there’s always something that needs to go somewhere and flying could simply be the way. So the next time you take a flight, try guessing what could be on the same journey as you. Who knows, millions of dollars worth of equipment might be located in the cargo hold section right under your seat en route to your next vacation spot!