Thursday, November 16, 2023
An international cargo plane was forced to make an emergency return to New York after a horse escaped its stall and began roaming the plane's cargo hold.
The pilot of the Air Atlanta Icelandic flight was cleared to dump 6,000 gallons of fuel over the Cape and Islands during the unexpected descent.
The Boeing 747-400F had departed John F Kennedy International Airport about 90 minutes before the incident occurred. The fuel dump was necessary ahead of the unexpected return because landings require less weight than takeoffs.
The plane was flying at an altitude of 22,000 feet, high enough for the fuel to evaporate and minimise any environmental impact. However, loose cargo, especially a large animal confined to a pressurised aeroplane, is a major concern.
"If the horse can move around, it can change the weight and balance of the aircraft," said David Fisichella, president of the nonprofit Cape Cod Aero Club in Falmouth. "The centre of gravity of the plane could change so significantly that the plane could become uncontrollable."
The pilot requested a veterinarian to meet the crew upon its safe landing in New York.
In addition to the potential safety hazard of a loose animal on board, the fuel dump also raises environmental concerns. While the amount of fuel dumped was not significant enough to have a major impact, it is still a cause for concern.
This incident highlights the importance of properly securing all cargo on board aircraft, especially live animals.