Flying Horse Groom – Maybe The Best Job at KLM?

Whenever I tell people that I fly with horses, they often look at me as if I’m crazy. Then they start firing questions at me, some of which can be quite strange. For instance, whether horses can jump high enough to get aboard the plane. But also whether horses are afraid of flying. I especially love watching their expressions when I tell them the horses fly along with the passengers. They’re in the cabin, about three metres behind the last row. In addition to thousands of people, KLM also transports dozens of horses every week. To America and Asia, for instance.

Noor KLM horses

But how?!

Okay, let me start by answering that first question. No, they don’t jump on board. And no, they don’t have to wear special seatbelts. The horses are brought on board in special containers, which look a lot like rectangular trailers, which have room for two or three horses. Once they are in the container, they are loaded onto the aircraft. The container is placed on a hoist that lifts the horses up to the cabin. Once they are at the right height, the container is pushed on board. That’s all pretty easy to do, because there are special rollers on the floor of the cargo hold. Once the containers are in place, we secure them to the ground.

KLM cargo horse

Which aircraft type is used for horse transport?

The horses are transported aboard a Boeing 747 Combi, which has a cabin that is split into two sections. The front part is for passengers, while the rear is a cargo hold that can take up to seven containers.

There’s a door halfway the plane. If you go through that door, you walk into the big net within half a metre. We need to climb through this net to get to the horses and back into the cabin. The net is there for safety reasons.

We can take along a maximum of 20 horses. In the most aft part of the aircraft (the T position, as we call it), we can only accommodate two horses, because there are weight restrictions. We don’t always have horses there. Sometimes we transport cars or other types of cargo. We recently carried two pandas!

KLM cargo horse

Preparing for take-off

The transport agents usually arrange all the required documentation and veterinary reports for the horse and also bring the horses to the KLM Animal Hotel. Our job starts when we start loading the horse onto the plane. We are on site five hours before departure, so that we have plenty of time and can calmly prepare the horses for the flight. We also conduct various inspections, reading computer chips and checking the horses’ passports. And then the action really begins!

We ensure that there is plenty of feed and water on board for the horses, to see them through the flight. We work with a team of people that includes a number of flying grooms (the number varies depending on the number of containers) as well as an animal steward. You could say the latter is the captain of the flying horse grooms.

KLM cargo horse

Next time round, I’ll tell you more about the flight and the way it is experienced by the horses. And if you have a question, feel free to pose it in the comments section below this blog, and I will try to answer it as best I can!

Posted by:   Noor Gierveld  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Karen

Do the horses get distressed?

Noor Gierveld

Hi Karen,

No worries!
We take really good care of the horses during the flight. The inside of the container is covered with rubber, so they won´t get hurt. We are with the horses in the container during the take off and landing, so if we see that the horse is stressed, we are there to calm down the horse! But most of the time they are just eating ;-)

Noor

E Dean Butler

Re. moving horses: Do they sometimes get “excited” when in the air? If so, what can you do about it? What about rough air? Can you get them to lie down, as opposed to standing?

Noor Gierveld

The 15th of September another blog will come online, and I will answer all your questions! Ofcourse sometimes horses get excited, but that is the reason KLM has animal stewards and flying horse grooms! No, during the flight the horses have to stand up. But no worries, they are used to it. It´s natural for horses, they can even sleep while standing up!

Noor

EMUAKPEJEKESSENA

HI KLM LOVE

Noor Gierveld

We love KLM too! :)

Steve Raatz

I was on a flight to JFK and saw a beautiful horse peaking through the door. Do you know what KLM’s plans are all the beautiful 747’s are replaced? I wish KLM would acquire some of the 747-800’s.

Noor Gierveld

You can read it in the next blog Steve! I love that idea btw ;-)

Magda Bossert

Please elaborate on the boxes the horses fly in and how you keep a horse stable during lift off and landing, seeing that a horse is worth nothing if a leg would break.

Noor Gierveld

Hi Magda!

The rear of the plane is a cargo hold, on the ground there are special rollers. So you can push really easy to containers on the right spot. When they are on place, we secure them on the ground. So during take off and landing, the containers can not move :) It is safer to transport a horse on a plane in a container, than in a trailer on the road!

Noor

Shirley

Hi!
Flying with horses would be the best thing I could ever imagine. I have had horses my whole Life and they are a true passion of mine. Flying is my life long dream, so much I even studied aviation! Combining these two passions almost sounds to good to be true for me.
I have spend a year at klm cargo as an intern in the office above the animal hotel. Every day I tried to catch a glimpse of the horses as they come and go. Unfortunately I didnt really had the time or change to have a conversation with anyone like you. But is there any possibility for me to do what you are doing? And what can I do to make that possible?
Greets!

Noor Gierveld

Hi Shirley!

Well, there are 3 options. Or join an airline, like KLM. Or ask a transport agency. Every airline and agency have their own rules and requirements.
For klm you can keep an eye on our website. For the agency you should contact one in your country! And option 3 … buy a horse abroad and go with the horse on the plane ;-)

Kind regards, Noor

Wesley

Hey Noor!

Very nice article with a lot of explanation and such a spectacular job you have!
I have a little question, I worked some time on the phase out of the Boeing 747s, and a question that once crossed my mind during my walk around in the AFT-section was: “which aircraft is going to replace the transport of horses?” I probably suspect the B747F… Unfortunately a little bit less exciting than having horses only 3 meters behind the back row! ;)

Noor Gierveld

Hi Wesley,

Thank you! Happy to hear that. I will tell you that on the 15th of September in the next blog ;-) and yes the full freighters will be there…

Kind regards, Noor

Anna

I want this job!!!

Noor Gierveld

Hi Anna,

Just keep an eye on http://www.klm.com/jobs/en/ to see if something is available :)

Jack Meyer

Nice to know, that KLM is so good for horses, what about their waste as if they eat, they must disgorge the waste, and does it not well smell a lot?

Noor Gierveld

Hi Jack,

Your comment made me laugh! No, during the flight we leave it in the container. It is dangerous for us if we muck out during the flight. We don´t have enough space behind the horses. So we clean it after the flight!
The smell of the kerosene, hay and the horses are stronger. I do not smell it anymore, I am used to it ;)

Noor

Noor Gierveld

Hi Aalt,

Sorry voor het late antwoord. Er volgt nog een blog volgende maand. Daarin wordt er meer verteld over de 747 en wordt wat dieper ingegaan op de andere vragen. Als ik nu alles al vertel is het natuurlijk niet leuk meer :)

Groetjes, Noor

Noor Gierveld

Hi Klara,

Every company has different requirements. But, most of the time you need a lot of experience and knowledge about horses. Know how to give medicine (if they need it) how the calm them down, and you have to make a test for the flight safety. :) And of course you have to love flying!! Good luck!

Klara

Hi Noor,I guess you work exclusive for KLM but do you know other airlines who are looking for flying grooms??

Anne

The agencies that organize the flights with KLM mostly provide the grooms. Only if there is nobody available KLM has to hire grooms. From KLM there is only a steward. Who is in charge of the horses and will tell the grooms what they have to do.
The best chance to fly with horses is to fly with your own horse or for an agency.

Noor Gierveld

Hi Klara,

That is not 100% true what Anne is saying. KLM has her own flying horse grooms. And the flying horse grooms go everywhere, but only if the agencies can not provide them :) There is a minimum of grooms for every container.
Keep an eye on http://www.klm.com/jobs/en/ to see if something is available!

Kind regards, Noor

Fenny Drewes

I’ ve been horse groom several times for Nedpoint and I loved it! If there is ever an opportunity to make it my paid job I would be thrilled. Can you keep me posted on vacancies?

Noor Gierveld

Hi Fenny!

Yeah, it is fun to be a flying horse groom! If there are any vanancies you will find them on http://www.klm.com/jobs/en/
You can keep an eye on that to see if any vacancies will be available!

Noor

Maria R.

Hi Noor, have send you an PM on Facebook. Hope u can find.

Regards Maria

Amanda

I just said to my partner, “somehow I’ve ended up reading an airplane blog?” ✈️

This was well written and fun and informative.

Thanks (I may need to become a regular KLM blog reader )

Noor Gierveld

Hi Amanda,

Happy to hear that!! Next month there follows another blog of flying horses…. So keep an eye on http://www.klm.com! :)

Kind regards, Noor

fred hoekstra

Hallo Noor,
Ik ben betrokken bij een Paardrijvereniging voor Gehandicapten en wij hebben daar een om de twee maanden een nieuwsbrief.
Mijn vraag is daarom mag ik deze blog overnemen en vertalen om in onze nieuwsbrief te plaatsen?
Misschien dat mensen dit leuk vinden om te lezen.
De website van onze vereniging kan je vinden op http://www.vpgdesamenhang.nl

Gr. Fred Hoekstra

Noor Gierveld

Hallo Fred,

Ik ga het morgen vragen voor U als het kantoor weer open is. Ik of KLM neem deze week contact met je op!

Groetjes, Noor

Peter

In 3 years time the last KLM 747 combi’s will be phased out, the only remaining KLM aircraft that can handle horse transport are the four KLM 747 full freighters, that will continue to fly a couple of years further.

Noor Gierveld

Hi Peter,

In the next blog you will read more about the B747! :)
But for my the B747 will always be the Queen of the sky..

Dayna Hale GoldFields Canada 905.806.6114

Who is responsible for bedding and hay ?
I would love to introduce my dust extracted chopped products for bedding. In easy to transport heavy plastic bags.
Great for the horses and grooms. Air quality matters so much in confined space.

Noor Gierveld

Hello Dayna,

To be honest with you I have no idea. That is not my job and responsibilty, so I can not help you with that. We already have really good bedding and hay for the horses, but you can always try to contact the animal hotel of KLM!

Kind regards, Noor

Ruonda

Is this those cut up cardboard pieces?

Noor Gierveld

Hi Anne, jouw verhaal klopt niet helemaal. De grooms die vliegen voor de transportbedrijven gaan vaak inderdaad mee op vrijwillige basis. Denk aan eigenaren die met hun paarden meevliegen.

Maar lang niet altijd kan het transportbedrijf KLM van grooms voorzien. Dan moeten ze een groom van KLM huren. Bijvoorbeeld ook naar landen zoals China waar het visum voor grooms lastig te krijgen is. Daar gaan vaak eigen standby grooms van KLM mee.

Deze flying horse grooms hebben wel degelijk een opleiding gedaan, weten hoe ze medicijnen moeten geven, en hoe ze moeten spuiten. Reken maar dat de grooms een verantwoording hebben, het is alleen dat de eind verantwoordelijkheid altijd bij de steward ligt. Hetzelfde als met piloten. Ze zijn allemaal opgeleid voor hetzelfde, maar alleen de gezagdvoerder heeft de eindverantwoordelijkheid. Het is dus niet zo dat de co en de coco erbij zitten voor noodgevallen. De taken zijn verdeeld.

Dus ook al hebben de flying horse grooms een opleiding gedaan, vliegen ze met hun eigen sportpaarden, al zijn het dierenartsen die met hun paarden meevliegen. De steward heeft alleen de bevoegdheid om dat te doen.

Klara

Ihi Aalt,I’m confused now!! Is this a real job or are you some kind of volunteer on the flight????

Klara

Dear Noor, I really want to become a flying groom and I found a flying groom course in the U.K.. my question is are there any courses in the Netherlands and if so which one do you recommend?? Kind regards Klara

Noor Gierveld

Hi Klara,

I agree, it is amazing! Well, I have to stay neutral.

But….. google is your best friend sometimes! There are just a few horse agencies in Holland, so on their website you see where they find their grooms. So you can choose wich one fits you best :)

Kind regards, Noor

Joe Alba

Hi Noor, loved your blog so much that I’d like to publish in my newspaper, Metro Airport News at JFK Airport. We serve all NY Regional Airports and the website is http://www.metroairportnews.com. We will of course identify the blog as KLM and you as the author. We do lots of content about KLM.

Noor Gierveld

Hi Joe,

Sorry for my late answer. I have send you an email! :)

Kind regards, Noor

Adrianna

Hi Noor,

Could you please advise me on how to become a flying groom?

I have been looking for such an offer for a while and unfortunatelly I’m still struggling to find one…

Any special requirements before applying for this position? I am an experienced horse groom and equine physiotherapist but I also love flying and travelling! This job would be a perfect combination I guess.

Thanks!

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