“Runway” Tortoise Delays Flights Leaving Tokyo Narita Airport

“Runway” Tortoise Delays Flights Leaving Tokyo Narita Airport

An escaped tortoise caused chaos at Tokyo’s Narita airport when one of the runways was closed for 12 minutes. Five flights were delayed before workers rescued the animal and returned it to the airport’s retention pond nearby.

“Runway” Tortoise Delays Flights Leaving Tokyo Narita Airport
Tokyo’s Narita airport was forced to close one runway after an escaped tortoise found its on the runway. Photo: Getty Images

It’s not unusual to hear reports of animals on a runway. Deer, bears, dogs, and other animals have all taken a detour and caused chaos at some point. However, it is unusual to hear of a tortoise on the runway. You’d think the slow-moving animal would have been spotted before it reached the runway!

However, the 2.1kg tortoise managed to get to the center of one of Tokyo Narita’s runways before being spotted by a pilot at around 11:35 Friday morning. The pilot alerted animal control, who immediately closed the runway to safely remove the animal, which was unharmed although probably upset its escape attempt had been foiled.

It’s thought the animal had escaped from the airport’s retention, which was just over 100m from where the turtle had been found. According to the Guinness World Records, the fastest tortoise ever recorded reached the eye-watering speed of 0.28 meters per second or 0.626 mph. The average tortoise travels much slower at around 0.5 mph. This means that for his 100m freedom break, the lucky (or unlucky) tortoise in Tokyo was on the runway for anything between 5 mins to an hour.

“Runway” Tortoise Delays Flights Leaving Tokyo Narita Airport
The ANA Airbus A380 in turtle livery was blessed with a lucky tortoise to start its special tour. Photo: Thomas Boon | Simple Flying

A strange coincidence

In a slightly strange turn of events, one of the five aircraft which delayed taking off due to the escaped tortoise was an ANA aircraft with a special turtle livery. The A380 features several giant sea turtles, which are considered lucky in Hawaii. Usually, the aircraft exclusively operates flights. However, with travel restrictions still in place, the aircraft has been redeployed on a special tour.

The aircraft was due to launch the tour with a flight to Naha in Japan’s Okinawa province when the tortoise made its appearance on the runway. In a statement, ANA commented,

“In Hawaii, sea turtles are seen as bringing good luck, and we hope this turtle that came to see the flight off signals a bright future.”

“Runway” Tortoise Delays Flights Leaving Tokyo Narita Airport
The green areas new New York’s JFK airport mean there are yearly invasions of turtles looking for nests. It causes delays for airlines like JetBlue throughout June and July. Image: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying:

An annual event

Although the break for freedom in Japan does appear to be a one-off,  turtles regularly invade New York’s JFK airport. Several hundred turtles can cross the airport at a time, looking to lay eggs. Sometimes the creatures can take over an hour to cross the runway, causing massive delays. The annual migration usually takes place in June and July, when the turtles look for nests. The grassy areas between runways at the airport are the perfect home.

Luckily, very few turtles are ever harmed during the event, and the airport’s schedule certainly has to deal with more significant damage than the creatures.

Have you ever been delayed due to an animal on the runway? Get in touch and let us know your experiences in the comments.

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