An Air India flight heading from Mumbai to London was forced to turn back mid-flight after a rat was reported on board. The pilot turned back the plane, which was headed to London, as a “precautionary measure.”
Fearing the rodent might damage delicate components or chew through wiring, the pilot returned to Mumbai as a “precautionary measure.” After the flight touched base, a thorough investigation of the plane ensued. However, the rat was nowhere to be found.
Air India flight AI-131 headed to London from Mumbai was flying over Tehran when a passenger complained he saw the rodent running around the cabin. As rats can be disastrous to the delicate electronics aboard a plane, especially when the plane is flying 30,000 feet above sea level, the pilot decided he wouldn’t risk the safety of his passengers and crew. Hoping the rat doesn’t cause any trouble before landing back at Mumbai, the pilot turned the plane around and sped back. Thankfully, the suspected rat wasn’t spotted again.
The Air India plane landed safely in Mumbai. The state carrier confirmed it fumigated the plane after the rat incident and even conducted a thorough inspection. A nose-to-tail search for the rodent did not offer any indication about the critter’s presence aboard the plane. The airline has confirmed that the plane won’t go back into commission until it is officially declared “rodent free,” reported MSN.
It appears a passenger thought they saw the critter on the flight, but the airline said a search of the plane found no sign of it, reported CNN.
Confirming the “suspected rat sighting” to be nothing more than suspicion, airline spokesman G.P. Rao said, “No rat was found in the original aircraft.”
He added that the flight was turned around primarily for passenger safety, reported Yahoo News.
The Air India flight had 256 passengers, all of whom had to be disembarked. They were escorted to a replacement aircraft, but the whole incident gnawed away three hours. A non-stop flight from Mumbai to London takes about nine to 10 hours. One can only imagine the frustration of these New Year’s Eve travelers after they learned they were heading back to Mumbai after being in the air for a couple of hours.
Rats can cause safety hazards and have been responsible for equipment failure. Their strong teeth can gnaw through almost anything, and these tiny creatures have been known to cause a great deal of destruction by destroying wires and eating through heavily-sheathed cabling. Although airlines take utmost precautions to ensure no creatures get on the plane without safety harnesses, rats are very sneaky and can find innovative ways to hitch a ride.
Interestingly, this is not the first time Air India has had to deal with a rat on a plane. A similar international flight to Milan was forced to return to the country’s capital, New Delhi, in July after the pilot received reports about a rat. One of the reputed international airlines, Qantas, had to deal with a similarly embarrassing incident after tiny baby rats were spotted on board.
Apart from having rat troubles, airlines in India have to frequently deal with stray animals venturing onto the runways. Reports indicate another Air India flight to Dubai from the northern city of Amritsar had to be aborted at the last second after a stray dog was spotted on the runway. The flight was about to take off when the mongrel decided to take a stroll.
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