Thursday, August 15, 2013

"There was no fresh bamboo available": Pittsburgh's first panda encounter leads to "rampage" in 1939.



Flipping through Dubuque, Iowa's Telegraph-Herald, we find a story of Pittsburgh's brief encounter with a panda. From May 2, 1939:
Pittsburgh--(U.P.)--Three transport plane pilots struggled with a giant panda in midair Monday as the animal, being flown across country, wandered into the plane's cabin when the airliner came into Allegheny County for a landing.

The plane was landed safely, although the 70-pound animal bit First Officer M.H. Cassing on the hand as the ship came to earth. Passengers on the TWA plane were unaware of the pilots' struggle.

Enters Control Cabinet

The panda was chained in the plane's baggage compartment when Tommy Tomlinson, chief test pilot for TWA, attempted to step through. The animal nipped at his trousers and chased him back into the cabin.

Encouraged by the pilot's retreat, the beast boldly ambled into the control cabin and approached Capt. Don Terry. Cassing then took over the controls while Capt. Terry struggled with the panda.

Eluding Capt. Terry, the animal managed to bite Cassing as the first officer brought the plane to a landing.

Bound from China to the Bronx Zoo in New York, the animal was in charge of Dr. A.E. Best of West China University, a passenger in the plane, Dr. Best did not know of the panda's rampage until the ship was landed.

"Does anybody have any fresh bamboo," he asked. "That will pacify him."

There was no fresh bamboo available.
The panda made it to the Bronx Zoo later in the day, but "Pan" died about a year later.