'For the 1st hour, it was really novel': Raccoon delays Air Canada flight

A raccoon stuck inside an Air Canada jet delayed a Toronto-bound flight for several hours on Thursday at Saskatoon's airport.

Ground personnel work for hours to remove troublesome critter

Ground personnel worked for hours to remove a raccoon from an Air Canada jet at the Saskatoon airport on Thursday — even removing panels from the aircraft. (Damien Lee)

A raccoon stuck inside an Air Canada jet delayed a Toronto-bound flight for several hours on Thursday at Saskatoon's airport.

The animal was apparently, according to the airline, hidden inside the hose of an air conditioning unit when a ground crew connected the unit to the plane. 

The raccoon then "scampered up and into the duct system," of the Embraer E190, said spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email to CBC News. 

Flight AC1126 was supposed to take off at 2:50 p.m. CST. 

Instead, passengers like Damien Lee watched the drama unfold from the terminal. 

"For the first hour, it was really novel," said Lee, a University of Saskatchewan assistant professor headed to Toronto to hunt for a new apartment. "No one's ever seen anything like this."

But after three hours people were "starting to get a little more cranky, a little less interested," he said. 

Panels removed from plane

Lee noticed something was up when the bags from the previous flight were being unloaded.

A member of the ground crew was "kind of wide-eyed; you could see that he was really surprised and not sure what to do."

Within an hour, up to 15 people were huddled outside the plane, including flight staff and members of an animal control unit, according to Lee.

Eventually some panels were taken off the plane.

Air Canada explained the delay to passenger Damien Lee via Twitter. (Damien Lee)

At 8:27 p.m., Lee texted CBC News. 

"The raccoon is out. Alive," he said. But it had also escaped.  

Lee sent a photo of a man holding an animal carrier on the tarmac. 

The unidentified man did "a lot of the work" trying to get the raccoon out, said Lee. 

But, he said, "the raccoon is NOT in the kennel… It ran off."

Animal control personnel went away empty-handed after the raccoon was removed from the plane and immediately ran off. (Damien Lee)

Stephen Maybury, the president and CEO of the Saskatoon Airport Authority, said the incident is certainly unusual but not unprecedented — last year bees delayed a WestJet flight at the same airport.

Lee said he has no ill will against the airline, which gave out $10 food vouchers to passengers mid-way through the wait.

"They're doing really all they can do," he said. "This is not human error, I would say."

Customers were also offered a discount on a future flight.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca