Sniffing For Culprits In Case Of Flying Pig
Nation & World: Sunday, October 29, 2000
PHILADELPHIA - The 300-pound Philadelphia porker that went hog wild while flying first class to Seattle on a US Airways Boeing 757 has given new life to an old malady.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials plan to question every flight crew member about the Oct. 17 case of the Swine Flew and are demanding a passenger list for Flight 107 from Philadelphia to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
"We're looking at whether or not the airline complied with its own plan for the transportation of animals," FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.
"Each airline has its own policy, approved by the FAA, and we need to determine if it stuck to its own game plan," Peters added. "Although the pig slept through most of the flight, the FAA must determine if it presented a safety hazard."
He declined to comment on possible fines or other sanctions.
A source close to the investigation, however, said punishment could be meted out once everybody involved in the barnyard caper is interviewed.
According to a US Airways internal report, the two owners of the porker claimed it weighed only 13 pounds when they asked permission to take it on the flight.
But the source close to the investigation said airline employees in Philadelphia, when confronted by the pig's bulk, cleared the animal for takeoff anyway.
"What was going on in the minds of the Philly terminal people to let a pig onto their plane that took four people to wheel up to the gate?" the source asked. "How did they fail to get a read on this one?"
US Airways spokesman Rick Weintraub refused to comment on the FAA probe, except to confirm that the pig did fly first class.
"There are no further developments, nothing further to say," Weintraub said.
He refused to release names of the pig or the two women who brought it onto the airliner with 200 two-legged passengers.
The pig's owners convinced airline employees with a doctor's note that the animal was a "service animal," like a seeing-eye dog, according to the US Airways report.
Trouble developed when the aircraft taxied into Seattle. Squealing loudly, the excited pig charged through the aircraft, then tried to break into the cockpit.
It was lured from a hiding place in the galley with tossed food and had to be pushed off the airplane by the owners and other passengers, the US Airways report said.
"A pig first class on a plane? Never heard of such a crazy thing," said John Myers, foreman at the Philadelphia Children's Zoo. "A pig should fly in a padded crate, in a dark compartment. In unfamiliar surroundings, a pig gets scared, and starts running up and down."
He also questioned pig sanitation at 33,000 feet. "If the pig moved its bowels, passengers would bail out in parachutes," Myers said. "If it urinated, it would be Niagara Falls in the sky."
The pig, according to the airline's report, fouled the jetway after disembarking at Sea-Tac.
Myers said he thinks the pig might have become agitated when it heard passenger noise above its low-slung head.
"Pigs live and eat close to the ground. They experience pain when lifting their heads to noise," said Myers, who tends pigs at the Children's Zoo.
By Frank Dougherty
Knight Ridder Newspapers