In a bizarre and unprecedented incident, a routine transatlantic flight turned into an extraordinary situation when a horse on board a Boeing 747 became loose in the cargo hold. The flight, operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic and departing from New York’s JFK airport with its destination set for Liege, Belgium, took an unexpected turn shortly after takeoff.
Around 31,000 feet in the air, the flight crew discovered that the horse, presumably a part of the cargo, had become unrestrained. Faced with the challenge of securing the large animal mid-flight, the pilots made the crucial decision to divert the aircraft back to JFK.
The pilot communicated the situation to air traffic control, requesting permission to return to New York as attempts to secure the loose horse in the cargo hold proved unsuccessful. Given the potential safety risks and the crew’s inability to manage the situation during the flight, the decision was made to prioritise the safety of all on board and return to JFK.
Upon its return, the aircraft executed a safe landing after jettisoning 20 tonnes of fuel to meet landing weight requirements. Adding a layer of urgency to the situation, the crew also requested the assistance of a veterinarian upon landing, highlighting concerns that the horse was in distress.
The details of what transpired during the flight and the condition of the horse remained unclear, with conflicting reports and limited official statements. A reconstruction of the incident, available on YouTube, suggests that the horse was experiencing difficulties, prompting the need for veterinary attention.
Following the necessary interventions and resolving the issues related to the loose horse, the flight embarked on its journey once again. Taking off from JFK and overcoming the unprecedented challenge, the Boeing 747 completed its journey to Liege approximately six hours later.
While diversions are not uncommon in the aviation industry due to a variety of reasons, ranging from medical emergencies to technical issues, an incident involving a loose horse certainly adds a unique chapter to the annals of aviation history.