Cheetah handling woes briefly ground Australia plane

Thu Dec 9, 2010 1:23am EST
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - As if a string of technical woes and delays wasn't enough trouble for Qantas Airways, a recent domestic flight was briefly grounded by a cheetah.

A flight from Melbourne to Adelaide Wednesday was held up for nearly an hour by troubles handling the pallet on which the animal was being carried in a transfer between zoos.

"We're sorry for the delay, we're having some problems loading the cheetah," the pilot was quoted by media as telling passengers.

"We have to do it very carefully."

The cheetah was being taken from a zoo in Perth, western Australia, to one in Adelaide and was being transferred in Melbourne.

The flight finally took off 50 minutes behind schedule without the cheetah, which was loaded onto a later flight.

"It's not an unusual thing for us to be doing. We've carried fairy penguins, crocodiles and hippopotami on our aircraft," a Qantas spokesperson said.

Qantas has been plagued by troubles recently including a mid-air engine failure last month that led to an extended grounding of its fleet of Airbus A380 jumbo jets.

(Reporting by Pauline Askin; editing by Elaine Lies)