A stowaway rat’s sudden appearance on a Delhi-bound B787 Dreamliner flight from Melbourne last Saturday caused the captain to divert the Air India aircraft to Singapore. Since then, the most exhaustive attempts to find and trap the rodent have failed.
The fugitive rat could be Australian, given the flight routing. Where the animal boarded is unknown but the airline believes it came from a catering truck. It’s the third time this month a rat has been sighted aboard that same aircraft, the Times of India reported. Is it the same rat? That remains a mystery.
After the flight diverted to Singapore, passengers disembarked and the plane was towed to a remote bay at Changi Airport. Singaporean rat extermination squads moved in, laying glue boxes to trap the animal by sticking it to the floor.
“These boxes are checked every four hours to see if the rodent has been trapped,” an Air India official explained.
Eight hours passed. The rat avoided all the traps, possibly by tiptoeing around them. When Singaporean pest controllers went to check the traps, two people in the team reportedly swore they saw a rat dash out of the aircraft and flee across the tarmac.
To be on the safe side, the aircraft was given another round of fumigation and rat-trap treatment when it arrived in Delhi. No rat was found. Later, the Times of India said, the plane flew to Dubai, a relatively short sector, as the airline didn’t want “to take chances by sending it to a far off place fearing the elusive rodent may be still be on the plane”.
On Tuesday night, the aircraft was in Mumbai, receiving a final round of intensive fumigation. Yesterday, it was cleared to resume its regular schedule.
Air India confirmed its policy of diverting flights whenever a rat is sighted. Planes put down at the nearest airport. A London-bound Air India flight carrying 240 passengers turned back to Mumbai in January after a rat put in an appearance. Again, a search of the plane found no trace of it.
“Rats are a threat to flight safety of these high-tech planes as they can chew wires and if the open wires come in contact with one another, there can be consequences,” an airline official told the Times of India after the latest incident.
The rat story does not end there. Air India chairman, Ashwani Lohani, has ordered a one-off pest control treatment for the entire fleet. Rat glue boxes will be placed on some planes and catering trucks will be fitted with pest control devices that emit ultra-high frequency sounds that rats cannot tolerate.
None of that will affect the stowaway rodent from Melbourne. The crafty rat seems to have got clean away.
Written by Peter Needham