A flight returns to JFK due to loose horse onboard. The remarkable incident occurred aboard a Boeing 747 cargo plane, when a horse, being transported as live cargo, managed to escape from its stall. This unusual event forced the flight, which was en route from New York to Belgium, to make an unexpected return to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
According to FlightRadar24, the plane had reached an altitude of 31,000 feet when the situation unfolded. The pilot, realizing the gravity of the situation, promptly contacted Air Traffic Control to inform them of the issue and the need to return to JFK. In the audio obtained by You Can See ATC via Live ATC, the pilot is heard stating:
We are a cargo plane with a live animal, a horse, on board. The horse managed to escape its stall. There's no issue with flying, but we need to go back to New York as we can't resecure the horse.- Boeing 747 Cargo Plane Pilot
This incident occurred barely 30 minutes after takeoff, indicating the rapidity with which the situation developed. As the flight was forced to make a U-turn off the coast of Boston, the pilot also had to deal with the logistical challenge of dumping about 20 tons of fuel over the Atlantic, specifically "10 miles west of Martha's Vinyard." This measure, necessitated by the flight's weight and the safety protocols for an emergency landing, highlights the complexity and quick decision-making required in such scenarios.
Upon returning to JFK, the pilot requested that a veterinarian be present at the airport to attend to the horse. When air traffic control inquired if the flight required assistance upon landing, the response was clear: "On the ground, negative. On the ramp, yes, we have a horse in problem." This underscores the uniqueness of the situation, where the primary concern was not the aircraft or its human occupants, but a distressed animal.
The circumstances leading to the horse's escape remain unclear, and the animal stayed unrestrained throughout the duration of the flight back to JFK. This not only posed a challenge for the crew but also raised questions about the safety protocols and measures in place for transporting live animals.
Despite the unforeseen complication, the flight later managed to take off again and successfully arrived at Liege Airport on Friday morning. This quick turnaround demonstrates the efficiency and resilience of the crew and ground staff in handling unexpected incidents.
Air Atlanta Icelandic, the charter airline operating the flight, has not yet commented on the incident. The lack of immediate comment from the airline adds an element of mystery to the incident, leaving room for speculation about the specifics of the horse's containment and the procedures followed by the airline in such situations.
The incident underscores the need for stringent safety measures and protocols, especially when dealing with larger animals like horses. The professionalism and swift action of the flight crew in ensuring the safety of all aboard, including the horse, are commendable. However, this event will likely prompt a review of animal transport policies and procedures, to prevent similar occurrences in the future.