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A Flight in Kolkata Was Delayed by Nearly Two Hours by a Swarm of Stubborn Bees

The Air India aircraft staff tried to remove them with wipers and by spraying water on them, but had to ultimately call the fire brigade to hose them off the cockpit window.
Pallavi Pundir
Jakarta, ID
angry bees delayed an indian airlines from taking off
Photo via Wikimedia Commons (left) and Maxpixel

One is not immune to flight delays in India because of a range of factors such as weather conditions and floods, but on September 15, as an Air India domestic flight in Kolkata was preparing for takeoff, it was set back by an unlikely obstruction: a swarm of stubborn bees. The flight that carried 136 passengers and crew was moving towards the runway when the bees were spotted by the pilots.

According to reports, the bees had covered up a part of the cockpit’s left window and were detected after the flight had already returned from the runway once because of a technical snag. An Air India spokesperson told Press Trust of India that the aircraft was stopped the second time right before take-off when the crew spotted the bees, and realised that further movement could damage the plane and allow the bees to enter the engines and harm the passengers.


The staffers first tried to remove “thousands of bees” by using the windscreen wiper since they had blocked the pilot’s vision. Then they reportedly tried to spray them off with water. After spending substantial time to remove the stubborn bees, the airline staff had to ultimately give up and call the fire services to hose them off the screen. “Fire tenders were deployed to spray water to dislodge the honey bees and they could be driven away after nearly an hour-long operation,” Kaushik Bhattacharjee, the airport director, told AFP. Apparently, even the fire brigade had a tough time with water jets as the bees kept returning to the windshield. The flight finally took off for Tripura three-and-a-half hours after the scheduled time.

Senior airline officials told The Times of India that aircrafts are not supposed to take off if insects are found on the cockpit window. Not only do they hamper visibility but could also affect the aircraft probes, which maintain the static pressure and the total pressure of the airflow. In the meantime, the airport staff in Kolkata are looking for hives in the vicinity, but have yet to find them. The next step, say the airline authorities, could be to take the state forest department’s help to scour for bee-nesting zones.

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