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Wednesday 29 September 2021

Runaway on the runway: flights delayed by errant turtle

There are myriad reasons why a flight might be delayed.

Mechanical issues perhaps, a connecting flight arriving late; or perhaps a passenger lost in the departure lounge.

Perhaps the most unusual reason for a delay happened last week at Tokyo's Narita Airport, where take-offs and landings were delayed by a badly behaved turtle. 

The turtle, believed to be from a nearby pond, forced the airport to temporarily suspend operations after it was spotted on a runway by a pilot who was about to take off.

The pilot informed air traffic controllers and the runway was shut down causing a delay for five flights as the airport staff scrambled to rescue the creature, Mainichi Daily newspaper reported.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Narita Airport office confirmed five planes were delayed.

Airport administrators said the turtle is about 30 centimeters long, and weighed 2.1 kilograms.

Although there have been occasional cases of cats, racoon dogs, rabbits and other animals entering the runway, the appearance of a turtle was very uncommon.

“The turtle might have crawled out of the reservoir near the runway to sunbathe since the weather has been warm the past few days,” an airport official said.

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