You met a WHAT in mid-air???

A New Zealand airline pilot is probably still dining out on the story of what he encountered in mid-air during his approach to Christchurch International Airport last week. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The pilot of a passenger jet, thought to be an Air New Zealand flight, was on his descent to Christchurch International Airport on Boxing Day when he radioed ground control with an unlikely sighting – a shark flying at several thousand feet.

The fish out of water was identified as a remote-controlled, helium-filled shark that has topped must-have present lists this Christmas.

A spokeswoman for air traffic control company Airways, Monica Davis, said a pilot had reported the shark and its location about nine kilometres from the airport at 2pm on December 26.

“We advised subsequent traffic of its location, but no-one else reported seeing it.”

. . .

New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association president Glen Kenny said a helium-filled shark would not pose a serious risk if it was sucked into an aircraft engine.

“The engine probably wouldn’t stop, but it would do a bit of damage,” he said.

“Helium is an inert gas, so there’s no issue in that regard. The biggest hazard would be startling the pilot.”

Wayward party balloons had been an air-safety issue overseas, especially in the United States, Kenny said.

He had heard about the Christchurch shark incident and had some experience with the toy, having bought his daughter the 91-centimetre clownfish version for Christmas.

He hoped common sense would prevail as people tried out their helium-filled toy.

“It says it’s an indoor toy on the box. If you take them outside and the wind gets them, they can be goneburger, so you’ve got to be a bit careful,” he said.

The Air Swimmer was created by 19-year-old Stanford University student Blake English and has proved to be one of the most popular toys worldwide since its release in July.

There’s more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

Here’s a video clip of two Air Swimmers sharks being flown at ComicCon in San Diego last year.

Yeah . . . I can imagine that coming across one of those, several thousand feet above the water (or the ground), might make a pilot wonder what was in his last cup of coffee – or the cabin air, for that matter!


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