Australian Flight Delayed By Unexpected Visitor on Runway

By Colin Fredericson

A plane out of Australia paused on the runway when a turtle was spotted.

The Jetstar flight was headed from Australia’s Gold Coast in Queensland to Adelaide in south Australia on July 4. First Officer James Fuller saw a turtle on the tarmac as the plane was preparing for takeoff.

“They aren’t the fastest-moving creatures,” Fuller told USA Today in a statement. “I’ve seen rabbits on the runway before, but in my four years flying with Jetstar, I’ve never seen a turtle on the tarmac. I want to thank customers for their patience while we gave the little fella right of way.”

The pilot thought the turtle was in danger of being sucked into the plane’s right-side engine, The Independent reported. He told the control tower, who sent people down to remove the turtle.

Jetstar Airways shared on its Twitter page a message it received from a customer.

“Ok, so this is a bit random, but wanted to give a shout out to our flight crew from OOL-ADL on JQ445 today, Capt Nigel and FO James, who brought the plane to a stop for a few minutes while taxiing at OOL to allow a gorgeous little turtle to cross the taxiway in front of the aircraft and make his way (yes, slowly – give him a break … It’s a turtle!) to the creek near the airport fence. Made mine and the other passengers’ day to see that. Lovely stuff, JQ pilots! Well played.”

Other Runway Turtles

This isn’t the first time a turtle has been seen on an airport runway.

Pilot David Serpa Endara took a video of a turtle crossing in front of his plane, moving rather quickly to the other side of the runway. The video was shot at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport on July 6 and posted to the Miami Herald’s website.

A sea turtle went to an airport runway in the Maldives to lay its eggs, according to an April report from The Independent. The green sea turtle returned to the place that used to be a beach. This species is considered endangered.

The site, the Maldivian island of Maafaru, is a popular nesting place for sea turtles, according to The Edition.

“Despite the construction of the runway, the frequency with which turtles visit the island for nesting purposes has not decreased,” said a source from Maafaru Island Council, via The Edition.

Sea turtles usually lay eggs at the same place they were born, and sometimes the journey back is very far, and might take years, according to The Independent.

About 40 turtles on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the summer of 2017 caused flight delays, NBC 4 reported.

Turtles at this New York airport are not unusual, as the airport has struggled to keep pregnant turtles of the diamondback terrapin variety from using the soft land around the airport to lay eggs, CBS2 reported.

The turtles live in the nearby Jamaica Bay. The airport has installed barriers to keep them out, but still had to remove some. It’s not clear if the turtles are still getting through the barriers and making their way onto the runway, but as recently as 2018 some were still getting through.