(The Canadian Press)

Raccoon delays Air Canada flight by nearly 7 hours

Animal had gotten into the duct system on a plane that was set to leave Saskatoon and fly to Toronto

A raccoon that scurried into the duct system of an Air Canada jet that was set to leave for Toronto caused a seven-hour flight delay.

Ground crews in Saskatoon were connecting an air-conditioning unit to the plane Thursday night and apparently disturbed the furry bandit who had been inside the unit’s hose.

“Our crews worked with the animal control experts to extricate the animal which was unharmed,” Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said Friday in an email. “This is the first time we’re aware of such an incident.”

READ MORE: Escaped dog shot at Canadian airport to avoid aircraft mishap

Damien Lee, one of 79 passengers, said the flight was due to leave Saskatoon at 2:50 p.m. He said that before passengers boarded, he could see a worker looking spooked as he was inspecting the jet. The worker talked to his colleagues and then started taking pictures under the plane.

Passengers initially thought it was funny.

“For the most part, it was novelty,” said Lee, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan, who was heading to Toronto to hunt for an apartment.

“People were guessing what it was at first. They were like, you know, holding mock bets, not really for real, but they were wondering and shouting out their ideas of what it could be.”

Pilots came down to assess the scene and, within an hour, animal control experts were brought in to try to catch the raccoon. Workers started taking panels off the plane with screwdrivers and hand drills, Lee said.

Handlers brought out instruments that looked like lassos to try to snag the animal, he said.

“It was a circus,” Lee said in a phone interview from Toronto where the flight finally landed at 3 a.m.

“What can you do? It’s not like somebody did this on purpose. This is an animal in there.”

Eventually, the raccoon dropped out and was escorted off the property unharmed, said Andrew Leeming, vice-president of operations at the airport. Leeming added that it was like herding cattle.

How the raccoon got into the unit’s hose is still a mystery.

“It might have been in the ground equipment,” Leeming said. ”It’s unlikely that it would have travelled from Toronto, but at the same time, we don’t see raccoons around the property, ever. That was kind of unusual.”

Air Canada said it carried out a full aircraft maintenance inspection before the flight finally took off at 10 p.m.

Even though this wasn’t Lee’s longest flight delay, he said it was definitely his weirdest airplane experience.

“It was like, ‘How the hell did that even get in there?’”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Heart of Our City: Louisa Smith finds home within

After surviving residential school, Louisa Smith became a counsellor to help others through trauma

MVP Of The Week: Synchronizing the Rainbow Warriors dragon boat

Lead paddler, Leeanda Wahl, is from Digby Island established a rhythm and camaraderie on the dragon boat team

Killer Joe coming to the Rooney Theatre

Prince Rupert’s Harbour Theatre will perform the play on June 1 and 2

Northern resident killer whale numbers reach record high

Population numbers have more than doubled since the 1970s

WEB POLL: Do you think improving passenger rail service will replace Greyhound’s bus service?

Via Rail has been referenced as a possible alternative to cancelled northern bus services

This Week Podcast — Episode 86

Pick up a few gardening tips from Prince Rupert Sunken Gardens manager Andree Fawcett

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Mike Harcourt says Canada is about to enter a new gold rush with many dreaming of striking it rich

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Toronto Raptors star to hold basketball camp in B.C.

DeMar DeRozan is hosting a four-day camp for players aged 6-16 at the University of Victoria

Most Read