A pelican plopped down in front of an airliner on the taxiway at San Diego International Airport Thursday, prompting a brief standoff that ended with the bird flying off unharmed.
The unusual encounter happened around 1:30 p.m. as a Horizon Air E-175 tried to taxi to the runway for departure. The outbound plane, headed for Everett, Washington, came to a halt when the pilots noticed a feathered obstacle.
“Sir, you’re not going to believe this but we are unable (to proceed) because of a pelican sitting here on the taxiway,” a pilot tells air traffic control in audio recorded by the crew on KTLA sister station KSWB‘s news helicopter. “And he’s not moving.”
The pilot reasoned the bird might be hurt. The standoff continued for a few minutes, with the pilot checking back in at one point.
“Tower, did you say you were sending airport ops to get the pelican?” the aviator asked, perhaps a touch sheepishly. The tower assured him that help was on the way.
A short time later, an airport SUV drove right up to the pelican, video from the news helicopter showed. The SUV stopped just short of the bird, which at first appeared unperturbed. The SUV slowly rolled farther, closing in on the bird, which suddenly spread its wings and flew off without further incident.
“It was not injured; however I was told it was a bit reluctant to leave,” airport spokesperson Sabrina LoPiccolo later told KSWB by email. “A member of our airside operations team responded to the taxiway to encourage the pelican to move which it eventually did. There was a bit of a plane backup, but everything is back to normal.”