Belgium-bound horse ‘escapes’ during flight, forces plane’s return to New York
A cargo plane heading to Liege in Belgium was forced to turn back to New York after a horse got into trouble while trying to escape from its stall, US media reported on Wednesday.
The incident on Nov 9 occurred just when the plane, operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic, had started its flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
It had flown to around 31,000 ft when the crew contacted air traffic controllers in Boston to say that a horse had partially escaped from its stall, according to a report by CNN.
“We need to go back to New York as we can’t re-secure the horse,” the pilot said in air traffic control recordings.
The pilot also made a request for a veterinarian upon landing, according to ABC News, which first reported the incident.
The horse was among 15 that were being transported to Liege, which is an import hub for Europe.
Turbulence is said to have struck soon after takeoff, according to officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.
The horse was reportedly alarmed and jumped halfway over the high front barrier of the stall it was in.
However, it got stuck, with its front legs on one side of the barrier and its hind legs trapped inside the stall.
It remained unrestrained until the plane landed at JFK, based on the audio recordings.
The team that tended to the horse said its injuries were too severe for it to survive, reported CNN, quoting Mr John Cuticelli, the head of the firm responsible for operating animal quarantine and export at JFK.
It was not known what injuries the horse sustained. It was eventually euthanised.
The CNN report said it would have been virtually impossible for flight grooms, who are responsible for taking care of the animals on board, to get the horse back into its stall.
This is because of the mechanics of how horses are transported on planes.
It would also have been impossible for them to lift the horse back into its stall, as horses weigh around 450kg on average.
Mr Cuticelli said this was only the “second time in all the years I’ve been doing this that I’ve seen that happen”.
Such animal problems, however, are not uncommon.
In October, chaos erupted on a VietJet Air flight from Bangkok to Taiwan when an otter and rat smuggled into the main cabin got loose.
In the same month, a bear cub broke loose from its crate during an Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to Dubai, while passengers were on board.
And in April, the 2006 film, Snakes on a Plane, became a reality for one South African pilot.
He had to make an emergency landing during a flight from Bloemfontein to Pretoria in South Africa because a deadly Cape cobra had slithered up his shirt.