Wolf on a plane: Frontier’s milestone jet features a special canine on its tail

The tail of Frontier Airlines’ 100th jet features a picture of a significant Colorado canine.

Denver-based Frontier announced this week that “Chinook the Gray Wolf” was chosen to decorate its newest Airbus A320neo jetliner.

The plane holds a special place in the history of the airline and the history of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. It’s plane No.100 in Frontier’s fleet and Chinook, the female wolf-dog hybrid whose likeness it bears, was the animal that started it all for the wildlife sanctuary and education center in the Teller County community of Divide.

Darlene Kobobel, the center’s founder and president, rescued Chinook in 1993. The canine had been scheduled to be put down at a Colorado animal shelter.

Adopting Chinook inspired Kobobel to “become a voice for wolves,” she said. A few years later, she launched the organization now known as Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, a sanctuary for wolves, coyotes and foxes that has been home to hundreds of animals since.

Kobobel learned Chinook’s picture was on the Frontier jet on Wednesday after first being approached by the airline last year.

“It’s just breathtaking for me,” Kobobel said of. “To see her flying high in the sky, and telling the world about wolves and her beauty, for me there are just no words to explain how that feels.”

Kobobel, a proponent for a 2020 ballot measure that would reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado, said her organization has plans to build new enclosures this year.

It’s been a bumpy 2020 for Frontier and the rest of the airline industry as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven down demand for air travel.

In May, the airline canceled a sales promotion that would have offered flyers the chance to buy an empty middle seat for $39 after drawing a sharp rebuke some members of Congress. The airline says it is now leaving middle seats empty on flights without charging flyers. Last week, Frontier’s parent company withdrew its long-dormant registration for an initial public stock offering.

Adding the new, efficient jet to fleet is a milestone for the budget airline. Another 160 Airbus jets are on order and expected to join Frontier’s fleet by 2027 as the airline continues to focus on rapid growth.

“We have significantly expanded our fleet in recent years as Frontier has continued to grow both domestically and internationally,” CEO Barry Biffle said in a news release Wednesday.

Chinook may fly out of Denver International Airport on Sunday, Frontier spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said.

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