Yesterday's WSJ reported that angry bees, attracted by the color yellow and by airline fuel (WFT?), have been hassling flight crews of late. Some of the insects have found their way into the engines and even the cockpits. Steven Schell, general manager of the Mercury Air Center-Burbank, remembers when bees attacked his plane, and firefighters were forced to hose the jet with insecticide foam:
"They were dropping straight to the ground, whole big chunks of them."
The pilots on the flight had to vacuum up three dozen bees that had entered the cockpit.
There's a Texas twist to this horror story. Last April, Gordon Guillory, a flight mechanic for Southwest Airlines, heard a buzzing noise coming from the tail of a Boeing 737-700 at Dallas airport Love Field:
"You couldn't really see them, but you knew there were tons of them in there because there were so many that would fly out. I've been working on airplanes for 15 years and I've never, ever seen anything like it."
(Cue horror movie violin shriek)
A beekeeper had to smoke out the bees. Guillory recalls having to explain to the keeper that banging on the tail repeatedly might, in fact, damage the tail and cause the jet to not fly so well.
Concerned about a local bee invasion, I called the intrepid Marlene McClinton, spokesperson for Houston's airport system:
McClinton: "Bees? What, you couldn't ask about Snakes on a Plane?"
HouStoned: "I'm getting to that, McClinton. But first, the bees. What about the bees?"
McClinton (sighing): "I have never heard of any issue — not even in passing — regarding bees, but I'll ask."
A few hours later, McClinton calls me back, noting that there are in fact bees at Houston airports. See!? Man, I wonder if Samuel L. Jackson has to deal with this kind of disbelief in the movie, too.
"The Houston Fire Department is called if it gets really bad," McClinton tells me. "Otherwise, there are people here who come in and clean out the bees. The largest airlines have people on staff or contract who handle the bees at both airports."
A-ha! So the bee thing is a serious issue?
"It's not a serious issue of passenger safety," she says. "But outside, yes, it is an issue we deal with regularly."
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Bees, check. Now what about snakes on planes in Houston?
"As far as I know, we have no snakes on any planes."
Not yet, anyway...
Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuuunnn! — Steven Devadanam