Several aircraft were infested with insects in the UK last year, according to a report that has just emerged.
Eight planes could not take off from London’s Heathrow airport last July due to wasp and bee nests blocking crucial ‘pitot probes’. Pitots are studded tubes which are used to measure airplane speed.
Seven of the planes belonged to British Airways while one was Virgin Atlantic, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AIIB).
“A Boeing 777-300, G-STBJ, parked on stand TA6, was found to have its right pitot probe blocked” by “an insect, suspected to be a bee or wasp,” states the report.
The flight take-offs were aborted as officials warned that unreliable or blocked speed indication is a “serious hazard”. This means passengers could have been in danger if the plane had taken off as planned.
The high level of insect activity in 2021 could lead to a “larger number of insects emerging in the spring of 2022”, the report added, so the risk of more probe blockages “could be significant”.
Aircraft remaining on the ground for longer periods (due to the pandemic) created an “attractive opportunity” for insects as pitot probes are an “ideal construction site for nests”, says the AAIB report.