As the debate rages over the origins of the novel coronavirus—whether it jumped from bats to humans or leaked in a Wuhan lab—the nocturnal mammal was spotted on an Air India international flight. 

An Air India flight from Delhi to Newark returned midway on Thursday after the Pilot reported the presence of a bat onboard to Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The Air India Flight left Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) at 2:20 am as scheduled, but the bat was spotted onboard after about half an hour in mid-air. The flight captain then decided to take the plane back to its original destination.

“AI-105 DEL-EWR returned to Delhi after departure after this local standby emergency was declared. On arrival, it was learnt that crew members saw a bat inside the cabin. Wildlife staff were called to catch and take away the bat. The aircraft landed safely at around 3:55 am, and later it was declared Aircraft on Grounded (AoG),” news agency ANI quoted DGCA officials as saying.

The only casualty in the incident was the bat that had started it. After complete fumigation, the bat’s carcass was retrieved from the aircraft.

“Air India B777-300ER aircraft VT-ALM operating Flight AI – 105 (Delhi- Newark) was involved in air-turn-back due to bat reported in the cabin by cabin crew after departure. Fuel was jettisoned and the aircraft landed safely at Delhi,” a senior DGCA official said.

“The bat was found dead inside the plane in the business class area,” they added.

Air India’s flight safety department is expected to carry out a detailed investigation into this incident. However, Air India’s engineering team has stated in its initial report on the incident that the unwanted mammal came from third parties.

“The probable reason/cause may be loading vehicles like those for catering because all the time rats/bats come from their vehicle only,” an Air India official said.

The passengers were shifted to another plane—Air India flight AI-105—which landed in Newark at 11:35 am local time, the report said.

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