An unusual passenger was found traveling to India from the Middle East a couple of days ago. Pilots of a recent Air India Express flight to Kochi were surprised to find that they were sharing cockpit space with a tiny bird, which had found itself a nice little spot hidden from view.
Bird in the cockpit
In 2019, India’s aviation regulator, the DGCA, imposed restrictions on traveling in the cockpit jump seat, barring non-crew members from flying in the cockpit for safety reasons. While passengers have been following that rule diligently, one daredevil bird was bold enough to challenge authorities for a free ride.
The incident occurred on July 15th, when an Air India Express aircraft was parked at Bahrain airport, awaiting a crew change for its return flight to Kochi, India. When an engineer entered the flight deck for checks, he noticed a tiny bird (reportedly a sparrow) sitting inside.
The Times of India reports that the flight engineer tried to catch the bird and release it, but the scared creature wouldn’t oblige. Before leaving the cockpit, he then opened the flight deck window to let the bird fly out on its own. When he returned, the bird was nowhere to be seen, and the flight was cleared to depart Bahrain.
Caught at 37,000 feet
After an unventful takeoff and climb, when everything was settled and the Boeing 737 was cruising at 37,000 feet, the pilots spotted the bird near the glove compartment. TOI quotes a source as saying,
“When the aircraft was cruising to Kochi, the pilots saw the bird in an inaccessible area of the flight deck near the glove compartment where flight manuals are kept. The bird was just sitting there and not trying to fly. The aircraft landed safely at Kochi. Once on the ground, our technician got hold of the bird and released it for safety.”
There has been no official statement from AI, and it’s difficult to say whether the bird ‘boarded’ the plane in Bahrain or was present inside the cockpit all along from the initial flight from Kochi, thereby including an international round trip for free. The DGCA is said to be investigating the incident.
Wild critters love Indian carriers
Indian airlines are used to wild animals playing fast and loose with the authorities. And for some reason, they almost always choose premium cabins (or the cockpit in this case) for their illicit journey. Also, international flights are their preferred target if the last few cases are anything to go by.
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In May 2021, an Air India Boeing 777 flying 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.
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In September 2022, a bunch of ants forced a London-bound Air India flight to be delayed at New Delhi’s IGI airport. The Boeing 787 was in the passenger bay when someone noticed a swarm of ants in the business class section. The airline officials looked at the complaint and decided to replace the aircraft.
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Source: The Times of India