Plane Lands in Heart of Africa

WHAT:              Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is clearing the runway for a Beech Model-18 aircraft to be installed in the Zoo’s brand-new region, Heart of Africa. A crane will lower the plane into the future African lion habitat.

WHEN:             Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:           Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Heart of Africa region
*Media should arrive at the Zoo’s business office located on Jerry Borin Trace just north of the Zoo off of Riverside Drive to be escorted to the construction site. Media, please call in advance so we know who to expect.

WHY:                Columbus Zoo will install a 1956 Beech Model-18 aircraft in the Zoo’s newest region, Heart of Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 9:30 a.m.

A crane will lower the plane at the lion habitat in between the region’s Ajabu National Park portal and the watering hole, along the public path. It will face south as if the pilot landed near the park entrance. In May when the Heart of Africa officially opens, guests will board the plane and will be immersed into an African adventure. To give visitors an up-close view of the African lions, the plane will be half in the lion habitat and half on the public side.  The public will access through the back door, be able to view lions out the portal windows and then exit onto the public side wing.  The wing in the lion habitat will be cooled to encourage them to get on the plane and look inside or take a nap.

The cockpit will be viewable to guests through a locked cargo net and the interior will be renovated and preserved as much as possible. All windows will be removed and replaced with lion proof glass and missing parts, such as the propellers, will be replaced. Additionally, all landing gear will be fixed in position so there will be no unexpected takeoffs.

Aircraft Specifics:
Name: Heart of Africa
Model: 1956 Beech-18
General Information: Built from 1936-1969/1970 and introduced in 1937, the Beech-18 models were known as the “workhorses of the sky.” With a sterling history of service in the pre-WWII commercial aviation, Army Air Corp, U.S. Air Force and post-WWII commercial and civilian aviation.
Tail number: N766X
Crew: 2 pilots
Capacity: 6 passengers
Length: 34 feet, 2 inches
Wingspan: 47 feet, 8 inches
Height: 9 feet, 8 inches
Approximate weight:  5,000 pounds

We would like to acknowledge the City of Middletown, Ohio and Stan Brock with Remote Area Medical for their assistance in the acquisition and construction of the plane, the Crane Group and members of the Crane family for their generous donation towards this project, and the citizens of Franklin County for their support of the Heart of Africa project.

Note: the wings will be reattached to the plane at a later date.


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

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