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Sun, May 27, 2007

Bees Sucked Into Plane Engine, Flight Aborted

Swarm Causes Engine Surge, 11-Hour Delay

Instead of Tatoo shouting, "Da plane, da plane!" from Fantasy Island, he could have been yelling, "Da bees, da bees" this bankers' holiday weekend in England.

A swarm of bees, some 20,000 strong, was sucked into the engine of a Palmair 737 which had departed Bournemouth International Airport on the Southern English coast enroute to Faro, Portugal, with 90 passengers aboard Thursday, reported UPI.

The pilot reported an engine surge about one hour into the journey and returned on just one engine.

According to reports, the pilot reassured his frightened passengers that the rattling noises they were hearing from the plane's engine area was a simple case of "carburetor trouble."

Said one passenger, "There was this almighty bang. It all happened so quickly. The staff remained very calm."

When the aircraft was checked by maintenance workers, Palmair Managing Director David Skillicorn said the engine "looked as if someone had shaken 1,000 cans of coke and sprayed them onto it."

The bees got so far into the 737 that it took two attempts to clean the engine.

"This was not life-threatening because they [bees] came out of the back of the engine," Skillicorn said.

He added that bees flying into an aircraft's engine was an extremely rare event and that the engines were designed to cope with bird strikes.

Skillicorn said the bees were, um, buzzing, off of Britain's Bournemouth coast prior to take off.

The bees, bee-lieve it or not, caused an 11-hour delay for passengers while the company carried out repairs and eventually replaced the aircraft.

An official from the British Pilots' Association said that the last bee strike on an aircraft they could recall happened nine years ago, which would explain why the pilot was confused as to the reason for the problems with his engine.

An outbreak of bees at Tucson International Airport was reported by ANN last August when, "for whatever reason, they (the bees) seem to like the smell of jet fuel, and especially the yellow color of the Southwest airplane," said the senior director of operations at the airport.  

A total of 196 passengers were affected by the flight on Thursday, with 90 attempting to continue their journey to the Algarve and a further 106 waiting to return to the UK, reported The Independent.

Could There Bee Recourse For Passengers?

Passengers affected by the bee problem -- for more than 11 hours-- could possibly receive compensation, reported the Dorset Daily Echo.

Senior Palmair managers attempted to find a replacement plane but were unsuccessful because all comparable craft were bringing Liverpool fans back from the Champions League [UK football, soccer to those in the US] final in Athens.

A plane from Luton finally took off at 7:15 pm and weary passengers from Faro arrived back in Britain at 1:20 am.

Palmair's David Skillicorn said passengers had been "pretty understanding when the situation had been explained to them."

"It sounds unbelievable that a swarm of bees could cause such problems, but there was nothing we could do except make passengers as comfortable as possible and provide vouchers twice for food and refreshments."

"We had four staff at the airport throughout, talking to passengers, and [we] will be writing to everyone affected giving a clear explanation of what happened."

"Compensation is not due because the delay was caused by a technical problem but I am still considering the matter."

"It couldn't have happened at a worse time, with the Bank Holiday weekend and half-term coming up."

Unless a plane is more than half-way to its destination, the law demands that an aircraft return to its UK base in such circumstances.

FMI: www.palmair.com/uk

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