A cargo aircraft was forced to divert back to New York JFK on Thursday after a live horse escaped its stall and started roaming around the cargo hold as the plane was preparing for a transatlantic flight.
The incident occurred only a short time after the Boeing 747 freighter aircraft had taken off from JFK for what should have been a routine six-hour flight to Liege in Belgium.
The flight was being operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic, a specialist charter operator which is most well-known for flying the Iron Maiden jet during the band’s 2016 world tour.
A recording of air traffic control communication obtained by ‘You can see ATC‘ reveals what happened as the pilot speaks with a controller in the Boston area:
“We are a cargo plane; we have a live animal… a horse onboard the airplane,” one of the pilots explains. “The horse managed to escape his stall. We don’t have a problem flying-wise, but we need to return back to New York; we cannot get the horse back secured”.
Air traffic controllers quickly clear to dump up to 20 tons of fuel off the coast and then return to New York. During this time, the pilots then ask for a veterinarian to be called to meet the plane on arrival at JFK.
Once safely on the ground, the pilots repeated that they needed assistance because the horse was in “difficulty”, although it remains unclear how the ramp agents then dealt with the incident once the aircraft was parked.
Live horses are fairly routinely transported in special horse boxes that can be easily loaded onto freighter aircraft. Of course, these horse stalls are meant to be securely locked to prevent injury or escape, so its a puzzle as to how this horse managed to escape its box last Thursday.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.