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Loose horse on plane forces flight to return to JFK Airport

Due to the plane's weight, the pilot also needed to dump around 20 tons of fuel to ensure a safe landing.
A taxi passes under the entrance to JFK Airport in New York.
Posted at 4:01 PM, Nov 15, 2023

A horse on a cargo plane heading to Belgium caused the aircraft to turn back to New York City after it got loose.

On Nov. 9, during the initial stages of its Atlantic Ocean journey, a Boeing 747, managed by Air Atlanta Icelandic, had to contact air traffic control in Boston to report that a horse on board had broken free from its stall.

“We are a cargo plane. We have [a] live animal, a horse, on board the airplane. And the horse managed to escape the stall,” the pilot said on air traffic control recordings obtained by You Can See ATC. “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.”

After receiving clearance to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport, the pilot notified Boston air traffic controllers that, due to their weight, they needed to dump around 20 tons of fuel to ensure a safe landing. The fuel dumping started approximately 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard and continued for about 20 minutes as the plane passed over Cape Cod.

The pilot also requested that a veterinarian be available to check on the horse.

Upon a safe landing, the pilot communicated to air traffic control that assistance would be required on the ramp due to a “horse in problem, in difficulty.” It’s not clear whether the horse was injured during the incident.

According to The Associated Press, the flight took off a short time later that same day and arrived at Liege Airport in Belgium the next day.