Alaskan flight gets delayed by seal sunbathing on the runway

Alaskan flight gets delayed by seal sunbathing on the runway

A 450-pound bearded seal was recently spotted on the tarmac of the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiagvik, Alaska. Its business? To soak up some rays, of course.

After a heavy storm hit Utqiagvik on Monday, October 30th, airport staff were hard at work clearing the area of snow and ice when they encountered the wild animal lounging about the runway. As you might imagine, wildlife encounters in Alaska are more common than not, and the airport has seen its share of seals, bears, and caribou causing delays by wandering onto the runway over the years.

A few people couldn’t help but have some fun with the incident on social media. The Alaskan Department of Transportation (ADOT) posted on their Facebook page: “This big guy decided to do a little wintertime sunbathing on the Barrow Airport runway yesterday. #alaskaproblems North Slope Borough Animal Control eventually removed the seal and air traffic was able to resume. Aircraft operators should continue to be aware of low sealings at our North Slope facilities.”

Scott Babcock, who discovered the seal and was first ‘greeted’ by him, posted a video of the idle animal with the caption FOD, airline code for “Foreign Object Debris.” He later told ABC News “It was very strange to see the seal. I’ve seen a lot of things on runways, but never a seal.”

No harm, no foul thankfully. The large mammal was ‘escorted’ off the runway by sled, thanks to the North Slope Animal Control, since airport staff isn’t allowed to handle marine animals like this oogruk. While this misadventuring seal story ended peacefully, not every animal who visits the tarmac winds up safe in the end. ADOT communications director Meadow Bailey told KTVA  that “wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Birds make up over 90 percent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare.”

Just recently, an 11-foot alligator was struck and killed by a landing plane in Florida. The plane was landing in the middle of the night and hit the gator just as it touched down, damaging the aircraft but not harming anyone onboard. The body of the 500-pound gator was removed later from the tarmac.


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