Sheep Fly “First Class” on Board LAN Cargo

It is a highly unusual mission, the first of its kind ever conducted by LAN Cargo: flying more than 2,000 Magellan sheep from Chile’s remote south to Ecuador in three consecutive transports. The carrier’s B767F needed to be specially conditioned to enable the animals a smooth and comfortable ride.

Accomplished the sheep project: LAN Cargo Boeing 767F at Punta Arenas Airport  -  pictures: courtesy LAN Cargo
Accomplished the sheep project: LAN Cargo Boeing 767F at Punta Arenas Airport - pictures: courtesy LAN Cargo

LAN Cargo’s livestock professionals have a good reason to start breathing easy – although the project will end only today (25 January) when the last of the three flights with Magellan sheep on board a 767F will safely arrive in Quito. No doubt, it is an ambitious undertaking never done before by the cargo airline despite its extensive experience gained in live animal transports.

LAN Cargo’s Andrea Campos Valdés
LAN Cargo’s Andrea Campos Valdés

The project started a week ago on January 18, when the first sheep consignment was loaded on board a LAN Cargo 767F (N418) at Punta Arenas Airport. From there, they were flown to Santiago, Chile where a B777F (N774) took over the animals to fly them safely to their final Ecuadorian destination. “This change of aircraft was imperative because our 767F had to return to Punta Arenas for securing the next transport that took place a day after,” illustrates spokesperson Andrea Campos Valdés of LAN Cargo.
The two consecutive flights with the B767F were operated nonstop from southern Chile to Quito, she confirms, without the aircraft having to make a stopover in between.

Important export product
Punta Arenas is located right in the center of Chile’s southernmost region, Magallanes and Antarctica. This rough and mountainous zone has developed over decades into a farming and breeding center for the Merino sheep. 
The animals are much sought after for their high-quality meat and thin wool. “We are exporting Chilean sheep, bred and raised in Magallanes Province under the supervision of professionals, technicians and institutions that have worked for 30 years to achieve a recognized genotype. Achieving that international recognition is very valuable both for the region and the country, and for us as a company,” stated farm owner and breeder José Marín as his first animals were loaded on board the LAN Cargo freighter.
All sheep, consisting of 1,500 females and 507 males, were grouped in special pens designed for air transport. Twenty-eight pens fitted on board every single flight, accommodating 25 animals each. 

Meaningful project
“The aircraft has strict pressure and temperature control to guarantee the sheep’s well-being during the trip,” explained Marco Pacheco, an airline expert in the transport of live animals. A maximum of 675 animals, divided by gender, fitted into each flight. It proved to be a very complex and demanding operation, which also represents an achievement for the Magallanes region and for the country as a whole, Pacheco said. “As LAN Cargo, it is an honour to participate in a project as meaningful as this one,” he exclaimed.  

On way to Ecuador – Chilean Magellan sheep.
On way to Ecuador – Chilean Magellan sheep.

Similar living conditions
The Chile exported Magellan Merino sheep will become part of Ecuador’s sustainable livestock program, fostered by Quito’s government. They have chosen to import the Magellan breed given its compatibility with the geography of the new habitat, which offers abundant resources for the reproduction and productivity of the animals.
“We selected sheep from this area of origin and the climate they are used to because Ecuador has similar forage crops and natural conditions the Magellan sheep need for their well-being. We have wool and sheep meat production deficits and this development will benefit the domestic market,” stated Margoth Hernández, Ecuador’s Undersecretary of Livestock upon the arrival of the first sheep flight operated by LAN Cargo.

Wealth of experience in animal transportation
Although the Santiago-based cargo carrier entered new territory with its sheep mission, LAN is anything but a newcomer to animal transports. This was practically illustrated in May of last year, when more than 1,000 head of cattle were flown from Minga Guazú in Paraguay to Guayaquil, Ecuador. To accomplish this mission, four of the all-cargo airline’s Boeing 777Fs were needed to get the job done in compliance with international standards.
The cattle transport kicked-off a close cooperation between Latin American countries enabling them to compete with market leaders like the U.S., Canada or Australia on a global level.
Ultimately, the Magellan sheep flights serve the same purpose.

Heiner Siegmund 

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