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Rickenbacker International Airport takes the reins on animal transportation

Article submitted by: Rickenbacker International Airport – TIACA Corporate Member



Written by: Bryan Schreiber Manager, Air Cargo | Business Development

When it comes to airfreight, some shipments are more sensitive than others.  Of particular sensitivity is the care and comfort of live animal shipments.  Columbus, Ohio’s Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) has been growing in this area in recent years.  Their success is due to the optimal combination of ideal facilities, staff knowledge, including a supportive United States Department of Agriculture office, and the airport’s geographic advantage. Beginning in 2016 with the opening of a USDA certified loading facility, the airport now offers a newly renovated, state-of-the-art rest and inspection facility, known as an Export Inspection Facility (EIF).  With a focus on ease of use, low fees and ideal pre-flight staging and loading conditions, it all adds up to less stress on animals passing through the airport, and a better experience for customers.

As a cargo-dedicated airport, Rickenbacker facilitates air exports from the US to anywhere in the world through a network of extensive charter activity and scheduled service on premier cargo-only airlines.  Being centrally located within a day’s drive of the majority of the US and Canadian population centers, the airport is also located within easy access to many of the nation’s horse and livestock markets.  Starting in 2016 with horses, goats and sheep, hog transportation is also a growing capability.  With the ability to handle over 300 hogs at a time for charters, and a partner in specialized crate building, the industry has shipped nearly 1800 hogs out of Rickenbacker in the past year and a half to places like South America and the UK, with future flights now proposed to Asia.  Over 500 horses, a 747-load of pregnant dairy cows, numerous goats and sheep, and even an endangered Rhinoceros that Cathay Pacific transported to a preserve in Indonesia are among the other 4-footed clients of the facility.

The animal handling facility at Rickenbacker is situated right on the aircraft apron, with van and truck access from the landside.  Within the facility are the EIF and horse stables, and a large enclosed loading bay that opens directly to the ramp so the animals are only a five-minute tug ride from the airplane.   The facility features a wide-range of amenities including a USDA work area, 12 new horse stalls built sturdy for housing Thoroughbreds, heating during the winter and ventilation during the summer, and even a rest and shower facility in an adjacent building for handlers, commonly called grooms, that accompany the animals to their destination.  “Because Rickenbacker offers uncongested main highway access, a quiet facility out of the way of ramp noise and aircraft operations, plus a process that is consistently efficient and hassle-free we’ve been able to grow our business since opening in 2016,” said Bryan Schreiber, Manager of Air Cargo Business Development.  “And as the market grows we will work with industry partners to add more capability, including a plan for import capability, in the future.”

One thing that Rickenbacker does not lack is space.  The main processing bay has room to fully enclose up to 8 tractor-trailers, which is useful for large charters.  “During annual horse charters, those trailers are pulled inside the building, and the horses wait comfortably as they are sequentially loaded into air stalls; which is a process that often takes place on the ramp and out in the elements at other airports,” said Schreiber. Smaller shipments of animals also enjoy an ideal and comfortable holding facility nested within the building directly connected to the main loading bay with large doors and rubber flooring for easy and safe maneuvering.

Because of the focus on cargo at Rickenbacker, the airport has developed specialized staff skills and partnerships that make the processing of animals from truck to plane an easy journey. By partnering with Baker Livestock and Horse Transport, Rickenbacker offers experienced livestock ground handling, a height-adjustable chute to transfer horses into the jet stalls, coordination services for animal testing, isolation and flight booking, custom crate building for any type of animal, air carrier coordination and even aircraft disinfecting services. All performed under USDA supervision.

“I have been in this business a long time and I have shipped all kinds of animals all over the world,” said Larry Baker, Owner of Baker Livestock and Horse Transport. “I can tell you without hesitation that Rickenbacker offers the absolute best possible experience for animals and their owners throughout this very complex and delicate process.”

For more information see the video linked here, and visit their site