Business Insider Edition

A flight in India was delayed when a swarm of angry bees covered the cockpit window and attacked staff who tried to remove them

Sinéad Baker , Business Insider US
 Sep 17, 2019, 02:21 PM
An Air India plane.
The Boeing Company

  • A domestic flight in India was delayed by two hours after a swarm of bees settled on the cockpit window, obscuring pilots' vision and attacking staff who tried to remove them.
  • The Air India flight was about to take off when the bees landed on the window. Staff tried fruitlessly to shoo them away and disperse them with the aircraft's windscreen wipers before calling the fire brigade.
  • Firefighters then used a hose to blast the bees away with water.
  • An airline spokesperson said bees could have "damaged the plane and harmed the passengers" if they flew into the engines," while a pilot said insects can harm pilots' visibility and mess with planes' sensitive controls.
  • The flight, which had 136 passengers on board, including a Bangladeshi government minister, was ultimately delayed for around two hours by the bees.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa's homepage for more stories.


A domestic flight in India was delayed after a swarm of bees landed on the cockpit window, could not be dispersed and then attacked the staff who tried to remove them.

Staff from Air India, which operated the flight, tried fruitlessly to remove the bees, but ultimately had to call in the fire brigade, which then used a hose to blast the insects away.

The flight, which was scheduled to fly from Kolkata in India's north east, to Agartala, on the border with Bangladesh, had 136 passengers on board - one of whom was Bangladesh's information minister.

The bees landed on the outside of the window just before the plane was due to take off from Kolkata, India, on Sunday, news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

Airport staff tried to remove the bees from the window, but they then became angry and started to attack, according to the UK's The Telegraph newspaper, citing airport officials.

They then tried to use the plane's windscreen wipers, but the bees stayed put. The Times of India said "thousands of bees" had landed on the window, blocking pilots' vision.

Airport staff then decided to spray them off with water - a process that worked but needed the help of the fire brigade and took an hour.

Kaushik Bhattcharya, an airport official, told AFP: "Fire tenders were deployed to spray water to dislodge the honey bees and they could be driven away after nearly an hour-long operation."

You can see the swarm on this picture, shared by The Telegraph India:

The flight was already delayed by almost 90 minutes over a technical issue before the bees arrived, Simple Flying reported. The plane eventually took off more than three-and-a-half hours later than scheduled.

A spokesperson for Air India spokesperson told The Telegraph that the bees could have "damaged the plane and harmed the passengers" if they flew into the engines.

Planes are not allowed to take off if insects are on the cockpit window, an unnamed pilot told The Times of India.

"First, the swarm hampers pilots' visibility. Secondly, each aircraft has several small probes, which determine the static pressure and the total pressure of an airflow located in the vicinity of the aircraft.

"These are extremely sensitive and even if one bee goes inside the probe, the airspeed indicators can go wrong, leading to a major accident."

Bhattcharya told The Times of India that airport staff have looked for hives around the airport, but have yet to find any.

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