Air Canada flight grounded after Ripples the cat escapes and hides in cockpit

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National Post
Jan Vykydal

There are plenty of things that can delay a flight – bad weather, ground delays, mechanical issues – but a cat getting loose and hiding somewhere in the cockpit normally isn’t one of them.

However, that’s what happened to Air Canada flight 603 from Halifax to Toronto on Wednesday morning.

The flight, which was scheduled to take off at 5:40 a.m., was delayed for four hours after Ripples the cat — brought on board by one of the plane’s passengers — got loose from its carrier and hid inside the plane’s cockpit.

“They were of course first looking [for Ripples] in the cabin, as I understand it. Then it became apparent that it had gone into the cockpit,” says Peter Spurway, vice-president of corporate communications for the Halifax Airport Authority.

“Then it squirmed down into a little space and the game was on.”

Although Mr. Spurway says he doesn’t know how the cat got loose, he says it was just hiding from the people trying to find it – it wasn’t hurt or stuck.

“Because I’m sure it was pretty frightened by the whole set of circumstances, it found its way down inside a panel in the cockpit into the wiring,” says Mr. Spurway.

The crew got all the passengers off the plane, and called maintenance crews into the cockpit to remove panels and retrieve the cat.

“They had to disassemble the cockpit, to a degree,” he says.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Air Canada, says the cat managed to hide in the avionics bay in the cockpit, an area that houses vital navigational instruments. Any damage caused by Ripples could have been potentially catastrophic if it occurred mid-flight.

Some passengers were put on other flights, but many just had to wait.

“The flights are pretty full, typically, so you don’t have a lot of extra capacity. But we were able to move some of them on flight 605 [from Halifax to Toronto],” says Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Employees found the cat at around 8:40 a.m. AT, checked to make sure Ripples hadn’t done any damage, put all the panels back in the cockpit, re-boarded the plane and by the time they were ready to leave it was 10 a.m.

“And of course the owner [was] primarily concerned about the safety of the cat,” said Mr. Spurway.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said Ripples was fine after his rediscovery, and was allowed to join his owner and fly to Toronto when the flight finally took off – four hours after it was supposed to.

Air Canada allows passengers to bring cats or small dogs into the cabin area, provided the pet is in a carrier that is small enough to fit in the seat in front of its owner (except on flights to and from Hawaii).

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