An Icelandic cargo plane purposefully dumped a load of fuel near Martha’s Vineyard because of an escaped horse.
WCAI radio first reported that the pilot of the Air Atlanta Icelandic plane was cleared to dump 6,000 gallons of fuel over the Cape and Islands on Thursday, Nov. 9. The 20-minute process began 10 miles west of the Vineyard and completed over the ocean east of Nantucket. The Boeing 747-400F had been flying from John F. Kennedy International Airport for around 90 minutes before it needed to return to New York because of the loose animal.
According to FlightAware, the plane was flying at an altitude of 22,000 feet when it circled around the Islands. It was headed to Liege, Belgium, before the horse got loose.
Martha’s Vineyard Airport Director Geoff Freeman said the Federal Aviation Administration and flight control would have been the ones to make the decision on fuel dumping.
“That is a common procedure for large aircraft, in particular with emergency situations,” Freeman said, adding that fuel dumps are done over unpopulated areas like the ocean.
Freeman said that planes fly on a “strict, lean balance,” and having too much weight can cause damage when landing. Dumping fuel for emergency landings like the Air Atlanta Icelandic return is a federally approved method for flight safety, Freeman said.
A horse being loose also makes it difficult for the aircraft, its crew, and the cargo, according to Freeman. A loose horse means possibly over a couple of thousand pounds, depending on the breed, of shifting weight on the plane.
“It’s all weight and balance,” Freeman said.
Although Freeman did not comment on any potential environmental impacts fuel dumping could have, he did point out that fuel dumping is not required for every emergency situation.
“There’s a lot of different factors,” Freeman said, pointing to an aircraft’s location and maximum landing weight as examples.