Air Horse One: The Airline That’s Strictly For Horses

On a flight out of Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, passengers were served hay instead of pretzels and assigned stalls instead of seats. In the boarding process there was a bit of foot-stamping and snorting, but otherwise the flight crew heard no complaining from the 8 horses flying direct to New York on Air Horse One. The leased Boeing 727 is what H. E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company uses to fly valuable race horses and show horses around the country. Fed Ex, UPS and large commercial airlines ship horses and other animals as cargo, but Tex Sutton ferries Kentucky Derby winners and other prizes horses on a plane dubbed "Air Horse One" and has since 1969. In fact, it’s the only U.S.-based horse transportation that uses a dedicated aircraft to do so. Ticket prices top out just shy of $6,300 for a one-way trip. The horses make their way between transport trailers and the airplane on custom-built ramps with high walls so that their feet never touch the ground, which means there’s little chance of having a horse get loose at the airport. Once onboard, horses are loaded into specially-built stalls that can be arranged two or three across inside the airplane. While the owners of some celebrity hoses may charter the entire plane, Air Horse One can carry 18-20 horses per flight. To accommodate their special cargo, the pilots of Air Horse One make wide turns and extra-gentle ascents and descents to try to keep the horses from getting spooked or losing their balance. Like air ambulances and the presidential Air Force One, airports around the country allow Air Horse One to skip to the front of the line when it comes time to take off. Pilots of other flights understand that when you have a bunch of horses onboard, you need a way to get out of Dodge fast.