Passengers react to three hour flight delay caused by swarm of bees

Published: Jul. 24, 2013 at 7:48 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2013 at 7:49 PM EDT
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Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)
Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)
Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)
Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)
Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)
Photo courtesy: Andy Jeffers (@AndyVJeffers)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A US Airways flight was delayed for nearly three hours, its passengers trapped onboard, after a swarm of bees attacked the plane at the Charlotte airport.

US Airways Express Flight 2690 from Charlotte to Indianapolis was scheduled to depart at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon from gate E-11, but a swarm of bees forced the plane to stay on the ground until 4 p.m.

As the plane was pushing back from the gate, a swarm of bees began circling around the tug that pushes the aircraft away from the Jetway.

"We all board - no big deal - and the pilot comes on the speaker and says 'Ladies and Gentlemen, this is different but we have a swarm of bees that have landed on the tug - which is the part that pushes the plane out',"passenger Andy Jeffers told WBTV.

"So of course everyone opens up the blinds and there were several bees swarming around and some of the people that could really see it said there were thousands of them."

The ground crew moved away from the airplane but the plane was still too close to the Jetway and terminal to depart on its own.

Passengers were stuck on the plane while the crew tried to figure out how to handle the situation.

At one point, passenger Andy Jeffers tweeted, a flight attendant came over the plane's PA system and asked if anyone was allergic to bees.

The plane was able to reconnect with the Jetway and a beekeeper was called to the scene to remove the bees.

That beekeeper was Jimmy Odom of the Mecklenburg Beekeepers Association.

Odom said the airport is concerned sometimes that flights from the tropics may bring back Africanized honey bees, better known as killer bees. But that was not the case this time, Odom went on to say.

The honey bees were swarming on the tug as the queen bee searched for a new place to build a hive, Odom said.

Odom setup the bees in a new hive about 15-20 feet from where they were on the tug.

"All of a sudden the bee keeper shows up in his truck and he gets out and sure enough he knows what he's doing," Jeffers told WBTV. "I guess he got the queen bee away from the tug and all of the bees swarmed over off the tug and they pushed us away."

Odom plans to remove the bees in their new hive overnight when the scavenger bees have returned.

The flight arrived safely into Indianapolis at 5:16 p.m.

Some passengers spoke to local media in Indianapolis once they arrived, describing the experience.

"The pilot comes on and kinda sheepishly tells us the tug truck they use to push the plane back has bees swarming all over," one said.

"Looking out the window, there was just a million bugs. I don't know how to describe it," says another passenger.

Passengers on board the plane tweeted that a representative from US Airways boarded the plane to check on passengers and vouchers were given to everyone on the plane.

"I credit US Airways - they did a good job of taking care of everybody," Jeffers said.

Before the bees swarmed the plane, US Airways officials confirm that passengers were slated to be on a different aircraft that had to be swapped out.

The aircraft is a CRJ-900 which holds 79 passengers.

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