‘Operation Dumbo Drop’— the sequel?
Air Force to fly an elephant on a C-17
Posted : November 05, 2007

The Air Force saved “Free Willy” and the Army inspired the 1995 movie “Operation Dumbo Drop” starring Danny Glover — so don’t be surprised if Hollywood screenwriters line up to board the C-17 Globemaster that will fly Maggie, a sick elephant, from Alaska to California on Nov. 1.

The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage needs to move Maggie, an 8,000-pound pachyderm, to northern California, where she will take up residence at an animal sanctuary. At 27, the zoo says the African elephant — said to be Alaska’s one and only — is having some health problems, and zookeepers think she’ll be better off further south.

The Air Force agreed to fly the mission on Oct. 25 upon request by the zoo in what has been dubbed “Operation Maggie Migration.” The zoomies will fly Maggie from Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, to Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society, which runs the sanctuary near San Andreas, Calif., will pay the service’s costs, an Air Force statement said. Estimates put the bill at about $200,000.

During the flight, Maggie will be packed inside a 10,000-pound, cage-like crate measuring 18 feet long, 8 feet wide by 10 feet tall, small enough to fit inside a C-17.

“Operation Dumbo Drop” was loosely based on a 1968 special operations/goodwill mission that had U.S. troops ferry an elephant to a Vietnamese village for a sacred ceremony.

In 1998, a C-17 airlifted the killer whale Keiko, made famous in the movie “Free Willy,” from Oregon to Iceland. When the jet landed in Iceland, its right forward landing gear broke. An investigation determined that improper maintenance of metal landing gear supports had weakened the landing gear. The final repair bill was more than $1 million.

Now, all that’s left do is get Maggie a Hollywood agent.

— Bruce Rolfsen