A Swarm Of Bees Delayed An Air India Flight By Three Hours!

An Air India flight failed to take off today because of the strangest reason. A swarm of angry bees had taken a dislike to the aircraft and had obstructed the pilots’ vision! No one was hurt, but the flight was delayed by three hours.

air india plane
An Air India flight was delayed for three hours because of a swarm of bees. Photo: José Luis Celada Euba via Wikimedia

It took airport operators three hours to deal with the unusual situation, and the fire brigade was eventually involved to chase off the unwelcome guests with a water cannon.

Where did this amusing event take place?

“To bee or not to bee,” reported The Times of India earlier today when describing the incident that affected an Agartala-bound Air India plane in Kolkata on Sunday morning.

The pilots were prepared to take off with a planeload of passengers when they noticed they couldn’t see out too well; their vision was obstructed by a swarm of honeybees. Initial attempts to handle the situation were unsuccessful, and so a plan B(ee) was necessary. This required the intervention of firefighters.

A Swarm Of Bees Delayed An Air India Flight By Three Hours!
The incident took place at Kolkata Airport, which opened a new terminal in 2013. Photo: Paul Hamilton via Flickr.

Bring out the big guns

After realizing it was impossible for them to take off before eliminating the bee-threat, the Air India captain radioed air traffic control. They redirected the plane to another bay and alerted ambulance and fire services. Among those deployed were a CISF (armed police) response team armed with semi-automatic weapons. While they might have done well in dispersing a terrorist attack, with this particular insect-related conundrum, they proved to “bee” of no use.

Eventually, firefighters showcased their skills by carefully aiming a water cannon at the disruptors. While the water jet successfully washed away the problem, the tenacious bees kept returning to the windshield, clearly very infuriated with the plane, for some reason. Finally, they admitted defeat, clearing the aircraft to fly.

Are planes allowed to take off in this situation?

A veteran pilot quoted by the Times of India said that in no situation is an aircraft allowed to take off when the cockpit glass has a swarm of insects on it.

First, the swarm hampers pilots’ visibility. Secondly, each aircraft has several small probes, which determine the static pressure and the total pressure of an airflow located in the vicinity of the aircraft. These are extremely sensitive and even if one bee goes inside the probe, the airspeed indicators can go wrong, leading to a major accident,” said the pilot.

The plane was already delayed

At the time the bee bother occurred at Kolkata Airport, the plane was already delayed by nearly an hour and a half. It had 136 passengers on board and finally departed for Agartala, a city in northeast India, at 12.56 p.m.

A Swarm Of Bees Delayed An Air India Flight By Three Hours!
The plane eventually took off at 12:56 p.m., three hours after the original departure time. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia

Airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said that that the authorities inspected the area to find any other potential bee-nesting zones, but failed to find any. It remains unclear where the bees came from, but Bhattacharjee mentioned airport officials would seek help from the forest department to investigate the issue further.