The A to Z of cargo charters
No two charters are the same, and over the years we’ve organised thousands of cargo charters for customers around the world. From ketchup to sand, here’s our A to Z of the weird and wonderful cargo ACS has transported over the years.
A is for Art
When a museum in Morocco wanted to showcase 11 priceless pieces of art by Pablo Picasso, they soon realised a scheduled flight couldn’t transport the three-tonne load of 11 tall reinforced wooden boxes from France.
The pieces were insured for €150 million, but no money would cover any physical damage to the artwork. Our Paris office sourced an Antonov-12, which flew below its usual cruising speed and 30,000-foot altitude to maintain a steady temperature and cabin pressure.
Other notable ‘A’ cargo: Ammunition, aluminium coil, aviation materials, AOG parts, antiques, automotive parts.
B is for Bears
Just call us Bear Charter Service! When three orphaned bear cubs were found wandering the streets of Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, following devastating floods in 2016, an animal charity asked us to help fly them to a specialist sanctuary in Greece. The sister cubs had a smooth flight to their new home on a Fairchild Metro III with veterinary staff on board.
Other notable ‘B’ cargo: Birds of prey, bank notes, boats.
C is for Chicks
When a freight forwarder needed help transporting day-old chicks to Tanzania from a hatchery in South Africa, meticulous planning was needed to protect the animals’ welfare during transit. We sourced a Beechcraft 1900 for the time-sensitive flight and arranged a practice run to see how many crates could be loaded whilst maintaining optimal airflow.
Other notable ‘C’ cargo: Clothes, cars, cell phone parts, cherries, cabinets, cigarettes, chemicals.
D is for Dolphins
We pulled off a flippin’ good charter in 2016 to rehome two dolphins named Sting and Makai from the Netherlands to Spain. Our team positioned an Antonov An-74 early to minimise the animals’ time in transit and regulated the cabin pressure to prevent altitude sickness. After landing, the dolphins were transferred to their new home in a botanical zoo’s dolphinarium.
Other notable ‘D’ cargo: Designer dresses, dogs, dangerous goods, drilling equipment.
E is for Election Ballot Papers
In 2022, the race was on to help Australian officials collect federal election ballot papers from remote Northern Territory communities before the election deadline. Faced with a lack of local operators, we reached out to airlines in other states and found a Cessna 404 Titan that could land on the airstrips on the route.
Other notable ‘E’ cargo: Engines, explosives, electronics.
F is for Food
ACS is often called upon to help transport emergency food supplies. One restaurant chain needed us to fly 14 tonnes of beef from Belgium to Sweden for the launch of a new burger, while we’ve also moved 17 tonnes of ham to Puerto Rico after an administrative error saw the island almost run out. On a sweeter note, we helped to fly 100 tonnes of confectionery to a warehouse in Peru after a fire depleted its stock.
Other notable ‘F’ cargo: Fireworks, fish, fruits, flags, furniture, flowers, furniture, falcons.
G is for Garments
We put our right foot forward for Paris Fashion Week in 2016 when helping a major design label to fly in 400 dresses, 72 pairs of shoes and 40 pairs of trousers from Milan. Our team worked through the night to charter a mixture of cargo and passenger aircraft to transport the delicate, high-value garments. Other last-minute fashion requests include flying a plane-load of sports shoes to Mexico and sourcing an onboard courier to deliver a designer top from China to a photoshoot in London.
Other notable ‘G’ cargo: Gas and oil equipment, giraffes, video game consoles, glass, golf equipment, gloves, generators.
H is for Helicopters
Even things that can fly sometimes need a lift, like the four helicopters we transported from Europe to Africa in 2022. An Antonov An-124 was the only aircraft that could move this 12-tonne cargo, but its large wingspan means it’s not usually allowed to operate from the client’s preferred airport. Undeterred, our experts worked with Antonov to secure special permission for this charter to go ahead.
Other notable ‘H’ cargo: Horses, helmets, haute couture.
I is for Insulin
In 2020, we were tasked with flying an urgent delivery of insulin from Switzerland to Serbia. It wasn’t safe for the insulin to travel by road and Covid-19 restrictions meant there were no scheduled flights. We sourced a Reims-Cessna F406 that could maintain the cargo’s temperature and liaised with the Serbian transport ministry to secure special authorisation to operate the charter amidst lockdowns, securing the permit on the morning of departure.
Other notable ‘I’ cargo: Ink, instant noodles, ice.
J is for Jewellery
Sometimes a client just can’t wait to receive a purchase from abroad. When a Saudi gentleman wanted his high-value Swiss watch delivered as soon as possible, we chartered a jet to fly it from Zurich. An onboard courier guarded the precious cargo all the way to Saudi Arabia, where the happy buyer was waiting to put it on his wrist.
K is for Ketchup
In 2015, a fast food chain gave us the saucy task of transporting 90 tonnes of ketchup sachets before restaurants across the northeast and southeast United States ran out. Our fast-acting team chartered a Boeing B747 to fly the ketchup from California to Georgia, where the client was able to redistribute it to the affected branches.
Other notable ‘K’ cargo: Koalas.
L is for Lions
Our team roared into action when we were asked to move seven wild lions from South Africa to Rwanda, as part of efforts to help reintroduce the big cats following the country’s 1994 civil war. The two males and five females made most of the 2,500-mile journey by air in an Antonov An-26 with adequate space and ventilation.
Other notable ‘L’ cargo: Livestock, laptop, luggage, lithium batteries.
M is for Medicine
We helped a medical courier transport medicine needed for Covid-19 vaccine research from Montreal to a French island territory with a short runway off Canada’s eastern coast. Within an hour of receiving the request in 2020, we’d found a Pilatus PC-12 that could handle the landing and secured the necessary permit for the charter to go ahead.
Other notable ‘M’ cargo: Money, military equipment, mobile phones, mining equipment, masks, movie sets.
N is for Naval Supplies
In 2022, a shipping company asked us to help fly spare parts and engineers from Singapore to an American naval base in the Indian Ocean, where they were urgently needed to repair a beached ship supplying provisions to the remote facility. Our quick-thinking team removed two seats from a Gulfstream G150 to make room for the cargo and passengers, finalising the perfect solution within an hour of the request coming in.
Other notable ‘N’ cargo: Nitrile gloves, nuts.
O is for Organs
When a hospital needs something transported by air, it’s usually urgent. In 2021, we helped fly five human kidneys to various destinations in Australia as part of an organ exchange program. We worked around the clock to coordinate this complex charter, ensuring the organs reached their recipients in time to perform life-saving transplant operations in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Other notable ‘O’ cargo: Oil pipes, orchestra equipment, oxygen generators.
P is for PPE
Before Covid-19 vaccines were rolled out, nations scrambled to import personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect medical staff – and we stepped in to help when demand put pressure on global supply chains. Our offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong had helped to move 20,000 tonnes of PPE (the equivalent of five billion face masks!) to over 60 countries around the world by May 2020.
Other notable ‘P’ cargo: Paintings, piglets, pipes, perishables, pharmaceutical products.
Q is for Quartz
We’re often asked to transport mined materials at short notice when regular shipping routes are simply too slow. One such material is quartz, which is commonly used in tabletops and kitchen counters and has been dubbed the “Universal Crystal" because of its many uses in alternative therapies like manifestation and meditation.
Other notable ‘Q’ cargo: Quad bikes.
R is for Rhinos
We jumped at the chance to work with African Parks on the largest-ever single rhinoceros translocation in 2021, arranging a Boeing B747-400 to fly 30 white rhinos 2,100 miles from the Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa to their new home at Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The charter took three years of planning, with complex requirements such as ensuring the mothers and calves travelled together so they could smell each other.
Other notable ‘R’ cargo: Relief aid, rotors, racing cars, resin, radioactive cargo.
S is for Sand
One of our most peculiar requests came when an Italian customer needed to transport sand to Egypt. It might seem odd to fly sand to a desert country, but this was a specialist type that was urgently needed for a glass-making production line. Reluctant to let the sands of time slip by, we quickly arranged an Antonov An-12 to fly the shipment from Rome to Cairo.
Other notable ‘S’ cargo: Satellites, stage sets, soft drinks.
T is for Transformer
In 2017, we helped move the heaviest cargo ever flown in the Americas at the time in the world’s largest aircraft at the time, an Antonov An-225. Travelling from São Paulo to replace damaged equipment at a plant near Santiago, the huge transformer wasn’t the same kind as Optimus Prime, but at 182 tonnes it was probably as heavy as the sci-fi favourite!
Other notable ‘T’ cargo: Tyres, trees, theme park equipment, tractor parts, textiles.
U is for USB Stick
We’re always sensitive to our clients’ needs, but extra diligence is needed when the cargo itself is sensitive – such as when one client needed a secure, trackable way to deliver a memory stick and its confidential data from a remote Norwegian town to Equatorial Guinea.
It took a team effort to get the USB stick to its final destination. First, an onboard courier collected the package from Kristiansand by car for the 4.5-hour drive up to Oslo, before another courier flew it on to Frankfurt. After a quick handover in Germany, a third courier with the necessary visa took off for Malabo. With all the paperwork completed in advance, the memory stick cleared customs quickly and was delivered hours ahead of schedule.
Other notable ‘U’ cargo: Uniforms.
V is for Vehicles
Cars are normally transported in container ships, but sometimes an aircraft is needed to move them somewhere far-flung. In 2015, we helped to fly a team and their VW Touareg from Cape Agulhas to Nordkapp as part of their world record attempt to drive from the southernmost point in South Africa to the northernmost point in Norway.
Two years later, we helped the makers of a TV documentary take the first two motor vehicles to the Magnetic North Pole. A Lockheed Hercules aircraft flew the modified Toyota 4x4s from Iceland to their starting point in the Canadian Arctic Circle and the team went on to successfully complete the expedition.
Other notable ‘V’ cargo: Valves, vests, valves, vaccines.
W is for Water
With over 30 years of experience and offices around the world, we’re regularly asked to help transport relief aid fast to those who desperately need it. In 2019, we arranged charters to fly almost 500 tons of humanitarian aid including water, cholera vaccines, mosquito nets and tarpaulins to disaster-struck Mozambique following Cyclone Idai.
Other notable ‘W’ cargo: Watches, water purification equipment, wiring looms.
X is for X-Ray Machines
Whether it's vaccines and PPE or machinery and hospital beds, we’ve organised hundreds of charters for medical supplies. The Mozambique cyclone mentioned above also led to us helping move an entire field hospital to the region, including X-ray machines. Our offices in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa were all involved in the relief effort.
Y is for Yacht
We were in a buoyant mood after pulling off this charter! Sea freight delays left a freight forwarder needing our help to get a boat prototype from Australia to an exhibition in the United States. Within 24 hours we’d arranged a Boeing B747 to transport the yacht from Brisbane to Chicago via Hong Kong, delivering the cargo ahead of schedule.
Z is for Zoo equipment
From cats and dogs to lions and dolphins, we’ve helped transport a lot of animals over the years. Some travel with their owner, while in other cases specialised medical staff are needed. Once we even had to move zoo equipment with a group of animals, chartering an Antonov An-74 that was big enough for the live cargo as well as the specialist apparatus.
Talk to a member of our friendly cargo team to learn more about how we can fulfil your cargo charter needs.