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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Cat pounces on pilot mid-flight
An unidentified cat (archive)
Small pets may be carried in suitable luggage in the cabin
An escaped pet cat created a scare on a Belgian airliner, forcing the crew to turn back to Brussels 20 minutes into its journey.

A "lot of coincidences", as the airline told BBC News Online, ended with the animal running wild in the cockpit and attacking the co-pilot.

The captain ordered the Vienna-bound plane back after about 20 minutes.

SN Brussels Airlines stressed the incident had been a fluke and the crew had observed all safety regulations.

It's a very nice animal but apparently, sometimes, an aggressive one
Geert Sciot
SN Brussels Airlines

"We 100% support the decision made by the captain," Geert Sciot, the airline's communication vice-president, told the BBC.

Nobody, he said, could tell what an agitated cat what might do in the circumstances, scrabbling around amid the sensitive equipment in the cockpit of the Avro RJ.

"It took a long time to catch it," he noted, describing the offending beast - said by Brussels newspaper La Derniere Heure to be a tom by the name of Gin - as "very aggressive".

Kick theory

As an investigation got under way into Monday's incident, Mr Sciot explained that it appeared to be essentially a freak accident, caused by a series of circumstances:

  • the cat's owner was apparently sleeping when it escaped from its travelling bag

  • a child in a neighbouring seat may have interfered with the bag, releasing the cat

  • nobody alerted the crew before the cat slipped into the cockpit as meals were being served to the crew

The airline spokesman pointed out that the cat aboard Flight SN 2905, travelling from Oslo via Brussels to Vienna, was being conveyed in accordance with international regulations.

These allow for a single pet weighing no more then five kilos to be carried in a suitable piece of luggage in the cabin.

He stressed, too, that the cockpit had been open for no more than "five to 10" seconds, in respect of safety guidelines brought in after the 11 September 2001 hijackings over America.

The pet's owner had some questions to answer back on the ground as the other 57 passengers were put on another flight but no action was taken against the cat itself.

"It's a very nice animal but apparently, sometimes, an aggressive one," said Mr Sciot, noting that the cat had "travelled a lot" as its owner went to cat exhibitions.

One possible reason for the creature's sudden fit of fury may have been an unconfirmed report that it was "kicked by somebody in business class" on its way through the cabin, he added.

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