Friday, 27 January 2012

On-the-loose cat in the cockpit delays Air Canada flight

Ripples, the cat that grounded an Air Canada flight for four hours after he got loose and hid in the cockpit Wednesday, wound up more upset than anyone on board, his owner says.

“Right now, he’s just hiding out in his kennel. He doesn’t want to come out because he’s a little shook,” Debbie Harris, the cat’s owner, said with a chuckle. “I don’t think he’ll come out of the kennel for awhile.”

The 10-year-old male tabby got loose as passengers were boarding Air Canada Flight 603 from Halifax to Toronto early Wednesday morning. Air Canada allows passengers to carry pets into the cabin as long as they weigh less than 20 pounds (nine kilograms) and are in a crate that can be stored underneath a seat.

Ms. Harris, who was on her way to visit her daughter, said she thinks the latches on Ripples’s crate weren’t shut properly after security personnel inspected the cat before boarding the plane. When she boarded, the crate popped open and the cat jumped out.

The owner, along with other passengers and crew members, tried to catch him, but he quickly ran into the cockpit, past the captain’s feet and between a panel into the wiring of the airplane, out of reach. Ripples, who his owner said usually responds to his name, didn’t come out as she and crew members called to him. Eventually, maintenance crews were brought on board to deconstruct the panelling
and remove the cat.

“When I finally got to see him, it was like he was in a head stand. His butt was up in the air and his head was down, jammed between this pipe and this metal thing,” Ms. Harris said. “I [was] crying and trying not to hurt him. I finally got him pulled out and then they had to put the plane back together.”

But before passengers were able to re-board, Air Canada staff did a thorough inspection to ensure the cat hadn’t caused any damage. The flight, which usually departs at 5:40 a.m., took off around 10 that morning.

“I felt bad and was just thinking: ‘How in the heck did you get out of this? You’ve never gotten out of it before,’ “ Ms. Harris said.

While pets have been known to get loose in cargo bays, Peter Spurway,a spokesman for the Halifax International Airport Authority, said he’s never heard of a case like Ripples. “I’m sure that there will be some other [stories] that will pop up now, but in my experience it’s the first one.”

Ripples – who was named for his rippling stripes – isn’t usually much of an explorer, according to Ms. Harris. He’s actually quite shy.

“He doesn’t like to be around people and I guess it was just too much action,” she said. “He was too much of a scaredy-cat to do much of anything except shiver and shake.”

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