An Air Canada pilot diverted a trans-Atlantic flight when he feared that the life of a dog in the cargo hold might be in jeopardy.
Simba, a 7-year-old French bulldog, was taking his first flight stored in a crate in the plane's cargo area on a flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto. But midflight the pilot noticed that there appeared to be something wrong with the heating system.
"After takeoff the pilot got an indicator that one of the cargo hold heaters had malfunctioned and that the temperature was falling, as it is very cold at the high altitude where our planes fly," Air Canada spokesman John Reber said in a statement to Today in the Sky.
"Air Canada's pilots are professionals who are responsible for the entire flight," the airline added in its statement. "As soon as the crew became aware of the temperature issue, the captain grew rightfully concerned for the dog's comfort and well-being. With the altitude it can become very uncomfortable, and possibly the situation could have been life threatening if the flight had continued."
The pilot, who has not been identified, noticed the issue just as the plane was about to head over the Atlantic Ocean. He was worried that there could be a sudden drop in temperature, putting Simba in danger. The pilot decided to divert the flight with 232 passengers (and one dog) aboard and land in Frankfurt, Germany. There, he put Simba on another flight before continuing on to Toronto.
“It’s my dog, it’s like my child. It’s everything to me,” the dog's owner, German Kontorovich, told CityNews, after they were reunited when the plane landed.
Aviation expert Phyl Durby told CityNews that he believed the pilot made the right decision, despite delaying the flight by more than an hour and likely adding about $10,000 in fuel costs.
“If you look at the outside temperature, if it’s minus 50 or 60, there is some insulation but it will probably still get down to below freezing (in the cargo area),” Durby said.
“The captain is responsible for all lives on board, whether it’s human or K-9.”