Loose Horse Causes Plane to Return to New York Airport


Getty A different horse.

A horse got loose during a transatlantic flight, forcing the plane to return to New York.

You Can See ATC obtained audio of the pilot speaking with air traffic controllers about the horse. You can listen to the audio below.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Pilot Informed Air Traffic Controllers, ‘the Horse Managed to Escape the Stall’

On November 9, 2023, an Air Atlanta Icelandic Boeing 747-400 was leaving JFK Airport to Liege Airport in Belgium at about 31,000 feet when it reported that “the horse had managed to escape the cargo hold,” ATC reported.

The video shows a reconstruction of the flight with the flight audio accompanying it.

The pilot said, “Yes, sir we are cargo plane. We have live animal, horse on board the airplane. And the horse managed to escape the stall. We don’t have a problem as of flying wise, but we need to return back to New York. We cannot get the horse back secured.”

The controller cleared him to return to Kennedy airport, and the pilot thanked him.

A short time later, the pilot added, “Due to our weight, we need to dump 20 tons of fuel.” The plane began dumping fuel about 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard, according to the ATC video.

“We need a vet, veterinarian I guess you call it, for the horse upon landing,” the pilot explained, although he did not say why.

The Pilot Said, ‘We Have a Horse in Problem, in Difficulty’

The plane was cleared to land. The pilot explained that the plane was heavy.

“Do you require assistance?” asked the controller.

“On the ramp yes, we have a horse in problem, in difficulty,” responded the pilot.

People joked about the situation in the comment thread of the YouTube video. “Gives new meaning to a stable approach! 🐎” wrote one.

“Wow the amount of communication these pilots have to do and still manage to land safely all the time 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽” wrote another. “That’ll be the first horse placed on the no-fly list for…horsing around on a 747,” commented another person.

Concluded another comment writer, “You don’t see things like this happen everyday. This was well-handled by everybody involved. The first ATC at Boston did a great job in his instructions and coordinating with JFK to have a vet standing by and informing other pilots of the fuel dumping all at the same time.”

Another wrote, “Most horses I’ve flown had handlers and a veterinarian who went along for the flight. My record was 95 racehorses on a single flight (out of Sydney). But one time I flew over 900 baby oinkers from Chicago to China!”

Other people also praised the pilot and air traffic controllers. “Such calm professionalism despite the horsing around in the cargo hold!! I especially like that the pilot thought to ask for a veterinarian!! Bravo all involved,” wrote one. “Very professional and polite crew. Especially than when you think about it, a horse running around a cargo hold is a big deal. I have dealt with horses a bit in my younger years. They are strong and can be quite heavy. Maybe on a 747 it wouldn’t move the COG by much, but their kicks could absolutely cause some damage to the aircraft, potentially even kick through the bulkhead,” another person wrote.

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