In a bizarre situation this week, an Air India flight from Delhi to Newark was forced to return due to a bat in the cabin. Passengers and crew noticed the animal around 20 minutes after takeoff and promptly reported it to the pilots. The aircraft safely landed in Delhi two hours following departure after burning fuel and the bat was removed.
According to NDTV, the incident occurred on Air India flight AI105 from New Delhi to Newark on Thursday (27th May). The flight departed at 02:28 AM local time for the 15-hour journey to the US. However, roughly 20 minutes into the flight, passengers and crew in business class realized something shocking: there was an unwelcome guest onboard.
While on the ground, a bat seems to have entered the plane and evaded the detection of the cabin crew during pre-flight checks. Once in the air, the bat took to the skies once again, with passengers onboard recording videos of the animal flying through the aircraft.
Only this was left to see in 2021 :
Air India flight to Newark returns back to Delhi after a bat flew by the cabin.
— Tarun Shukla (@shukla_tarun) May 28, 2021
Upon noticing the bat flying through the aircraft (in clear defiance of safety rules during takeoff may we add), the crew quickly informed the pilots. As is the procedure, the flight turned back around to Delhi to remove the bat as soon as possible.
However, landing a Boeing 777-300ER filled with fuel for a 15-hour flight is not simple as it seems. Due to the aircraft’s weight, the plane had to first circle over Delhi Airport to reach the maximum landing weight permitted. Landing without burning fuel can result in a hard landing, possibly structurally damaging the aircraft.
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This meant the terrified travelers onboard were forced to spend nearly one and a half hours with the free-riding passenger. The aircraft landed safely in Delhi at 04:20 AM local time, a full two hours after first taking off.
Upon landing, the passengers promptly disembarked and a fumigation team was sent onboard to deal with the bat. The remains of the bat were removed from seat row 8 a while later, bringing the situation end.
In a statement, a DGCA official said,
“Air India B777-300ER aircraft VT-ALM operating Flight AI – 105 (Delhi- Newark) was involved in air-turn-back due to bat reported in the cabin by cabin crew after departure. Fuel was jettisoned and the aircraft landed safely at Delhi. After landing fumigation was carried out and a dead bat carcass was retrieved from seat 8DEF area.”
Due to the incident, the original aircraft (registration VT-ALM) was grounded, and a new plane was called in. The remaining passengers to Newark were accommodated on another 777-300ER, registration VT-ALU, which departed Delhi at 06:37 AM local time, arriving in the US just under four hours late (and with a thorough check for unwanted bats).
According to an initial report from Air India’s engineering team, the bat possibly entered during the food loading process. While the door was opening for the catering vehicle, the animal seems to have sneaked in. However, we will know once a full investigation has been completed.