MGM choose pilot Martin Jensen to fly Leo from Southern California to New York. About five hours into the trip, Jensen realized he would not have enough altitude to clear the mountains. Soon after he crash-landed in the canyon tearing off the landing gear, one wing and came to rest in a tree. He gave the lion some food and water and went to get help.
After four days he found some cowboys who got him to a phone to call MGM who asked, what about the lion? The boys soon returned to get Leo who was only a little less for wear. Factors contributing to the crash were weight and the center of gravity for the big cat as he moved around in the cage. Anyway, they crashed in the mountains of Hells Canyon, AZ – now known as “Leo Canyon”. The lion was renamed “Lucky” because she had now survived and plane crash and a studio explosion.