If you've ever been stuck in a car going along a motorway with a wasp buzzing around inside the vehicle, you'll know just how stressful an experience it can be. Spare a thought then for the pilots of an Airbus A330 jet, who were plagued by a nest of the blighters, causing an aborted takeoff and emergency landing.
The incident occurred in Brisbane, Australia in November of last year, but has just been made public by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) authority. Arriving from Singapore without any issues, a later attempt at takeoff saw the craft's instruments displaying that the plane was struggling to hit even 88 knots (162 km/h), far less than the speed needed to be reached in order to get off the ground.
Technicians examined the plane and couldn't find the source of the problem, so a second takeoff was attempted and, somewhat frighteningly, achieved. Still concerned that airspeed was too low, the pilot made the decision to make a hasty emergency landing.
And it turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision. Under closer inspection, the plane's instrument systems were found to have been "completely blocked by an insect nest, composed of sand and mud, that was consistent with the nest of a ‘mud-dauber’ wasp." It would have made the pilots incapable of accurately tracking the aircraft's performance, or to measure speed with the precise detail needed to safely operate the jet.
What's most remarkable was the speed at which the insects must have worked in order to create the troublesome nest. The plane was in perfect working order at the time of landing at 9.49 am, and made its first attempt to takeoff at 11.52. That gave the wasps just around two hours to put their base of operations together, and effectively endanger the lives of scores of passengers. [The Register]