November 21, 2012
Two months ago, on a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne, Australia, a crocodile got loose in the cargo hold of a Qantas aircraft. “The animal was quickly and safely secured when the aircraft arrived in Melbourne,” a Qantas spokesman told The Australian.
It’s not the first time a croc flew. Two years before that, a crocodile—carried on board in a large duffel bag—allegedly escaped on a Filair flight from Kinshasa to Bandundu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Pandemonium ensued,” reported msnbc.com. The Let L-410 Turbolet crashed, killing 20 on board. (The croc escaped, but was killed by ground crew.)
The earliest reference we can find of crocodilians becoming airborne dates to 1929. Yoav Di-Capua writes (in the summer 2008 issue of the Journal of Social History), “[I]n 1929, at the age of thirty, a bored employee at Bank Misr named Muhammad Sidqi decided to replace his wooden office chair with a posh leather seat in an airplane cockpit. Resigning his position, he enrolled in a German aviation school. A few months later…he purchased a modest monoplane with a 45-hp. engine and an overall weight of less than 250kg. With the enthusiastic cooperation of the Egyptian authorities, on December 15th he left from Berlin, and, via Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Venice and Malta, made his way to Libya. With him in the cockpit was a small crocodile that was presented to him in Berlin as a gift for the Cairo Zoological Gardens.”
On January 26, 1930, thousands of people — including the Egyptian Prime Minister — gathered to watch Sidqi land on a Cairo airstrip. The mob swarmed the rickety aircraft as it landed, and triumphantly carried the newly minted pilot through the Cairo streets. The next day the newspapers covered Sidqi’s feat, but “Not a word was written on the fate of the small crocodile that had bravely accompanied Sidqi on his perilous journey back home,” notes Di-Capua.
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