A “Giant” Job…moving The Lion King to Honolulu by Air – OPShots.net

These two Atlas Air (callsign "Giant") 747's moved the Lion King from Cleveland to Honolulu in 2007. Photo: Chuck Slusarczyk Jr. - OPShots.net

How do you move Walt Disney’s larger than life stage production of The Lion King to Hawaii?  With a couple of “Giants” of course!  After a successful five and a half week run in 2007 at the State Theatre in downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square district, the colorful stage production of the Walt Disney movie closed its doors on September 9th.  Immediately thereafter, the Tony Award winning musical quickly began the process of moving the show to Honolulu Hawaii where it opened September 17th, 2007 to sold out audiences at the Neil S. Blaisdell Concert Hall.In a feat of logistic choreography nearly equal to that of the show itself, the entire set including lighting, musical instruments as well as the famously lavish costumes had to be moved quickly in order to make it in time for opening night just a week away, and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  There is only one way to do all that…by air!

Enter the Giants

Atlas Air, a division of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings which also includes Polar Air Cargo, was called upon to move the production to Hawaii and sent two of their 747-200’s to Cleveland for the task.  Cleveland rarely sees 747’s at all, much less two on the same day, so it was quite an event when these two 747’s with the appropriate callsign “Giant” showed up on the south cargo ramp.  One of them arrived from Incirlik Air Base (US) in Adana Turkey (LTAG), and the second one came in from John F. Kennedy (JFK/KJFK) in New York.  Both aircraft are dedicated cargo planes and formerly flew with a variety of carriers including Cargolux, with N809MC having been built for Air France Cargo.

A pallet of musical instruments for the production await upload on one of the two Atlas 747's on the ramp. Photo: Chuck Slusarczyk Jr. - OPShots.net

Parked on the South Cargo ramp at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE/KCLE), they created quite a buzz among the airport employees and local spotters alike.  They spent the entire day of September 10th parked side by side while the cargo was prepped and loaded onto pallets by Servisair Cargo.  Once they freight was safely covered and netted, the loading process began.  Throughout the hot day, pallet after pallet were uploaded to the two aircraft in preparation for their long trip to Hawaii.  N809MC was the first to depart at 5:22PM for the four hour and thirty seven minute first leg to San Francisco (SFO/KSFO), departing once again at 3:335AM for the final four hour and eleven minute flight to Honolulu.  N537MC departed some time later at 8:42PM arriving in Honolulu after an equally lengthy flight.

N537MC takes on some pallets loaded with Lion King staging material. Photo: Chris Jacobs - OPShots.net

The Show Must Go On

During 2007, The Lion King had several touring companies currently out on the road, and this scene was played out all around the world.  In addition to The Lion King, there are many other large theater productions and variety shows that require similar logistic capabilities, and Atlas Air as well as other cargo carriers are more than happy to provide uplift to these touring companies.  Indeed, when it comes to “getting the show on the road”, cargo carriers are the unsung heroes of show business, and it was quite exciting to witness first hand how this played out, and even more so to see it happen in Cleveland .




N809MC History:

N18815 Air France  1974-10-04
F-BPVO Air France  1982-04-01  Re-registered
LX-DCV Cargolux Airlines International  1991-06-03
LX-DCV El Al Israel Airlines  1992-12-23  Leased
LX-DCV Cargolux Airlines International  1993-07-21  Returned
LX-DCV Atlas Air  1994-07-24  Leased
LX-DCV Cargolux Airlines International  1995-04-28  Returned
LX-DCV Atlas Air  1995-09-16  Leased
N809MC Cargolux Airlines International  1996-08-05
N809MC Atlas Air  2002-08-12  Leased

N537MC History:

N743TV Transamerica Airlines  1981-06-01
N743TV Saudi Arabian Airlines  1985-04-14  Leased
N743TV Cargolux Airlines International  1986-04-01  Leased
LX-BCV Cargolux Airlines International  1986-12-22
N537MC Cargolux Airlines International  1998-10-29
N537MC Atlas Air  2003-05-15  Returned

(Story:  Chuck Slusarczyk Jr. –  OPShots.net) – originally published in the January 2008 issue of Airways Magazine.


About the author

Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.

I started OPShots in June 2006 as a place to share and display aviation photos without the often restrictive policies of other aviation websites. I want to share my love of aviation with fellow aviation geeks and provide a spotlight on Cleveland Hopkins International airport in the process.

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