Horse Forces Transatlantic Flight to Turn Around After Escaping Stall at 31,000 Feet

A horse exhibiting the flehmen response with its lips retracted overlaid on an illustration of a plane's flight path
A horse exhibiting the flehmen response with its lips retracted overlaid on an illustration of a plane's flight path

A cargo flight meant to cross the Atlantic Ocean was forced to turn back after one of its passengers got rowdy when the plane reached cruise altitude. This wasn't some case of a passenger starting a fight after one Fireball shooter too many, though: It was a horse that managed to escape its enclosure, and couldn't be corralled back into its stall.

The equine escape occurred board Air Atlanta Icelandic flight 4592, which took off from JFK International Airport at 2:30 pm on November 9 according to Business Insider. The Boeing 747-400 cargo plane was bound for Liege, Belgium with a cargo that included at least one horse that was evidently scared out of its mind. After the plane reached its cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, said horse escaped its stall, which the flight deck reported to air traffic control in an exchange recorded by "You can see ATC" on YouTube.


"We are a cargo plane," reported one of the crew while reporting neighday. "We have [a] live animal, [a] 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, return back to New York. We cannot get the horse back secured [in its stall while airborne]."

ATC reportedly granted the pilots' request, and ordered the plane to descend before performing an about-face off the coast of Canada according to tracking data from Flight Radar 24. The plane needed to dump 20 tons of fuel to land safely, and the crew also radioed ahead to ask for a veterinarian to be on standby to calm the animal. (Presumably, it got a big bowl of Special K. I can't get over the idea of a horse K-holing on a plane.)

The flight landed safely, and was reportedly able to complete its journey the following day. It's unclear whether the horse was on board, or how it escaped its stall in the first place. One thing's for sure, though: We'd all rather have a crying baby as a fellow passenger than a terrified 1,200-pound prey animal any day. The baby's less likely to crap up and down the length of the plane than a trained service horse, after all.

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