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Errant turtle closes runway, delays turtle-themed plane at Japan's Narita Airport

The Naha-bound All Nippon Airways Airbus A380 in sea-turtle livery is seen taking off after the runway at Narita Airport was reopened, in Chiba Prefecture, on Sept. 24, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)
The recovered turtle is seen at Narita Airport on Sept. 24, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

NARITA, Chiba -- Runway A at Narita Airport east of Tokyo was closed for about 12 minutes and five flights were delayed by up to 15 minutes on Sept. 24, after a turtle was spotted walking on the tarmac.

    At around 11:35 a.m., the pilot of a flight about to take off from the 4,000-meter runway informed aircraft control of the animal's presence. To ensure flight safety and carry out checks, Narita International Airport Corp. closed the runway for 12 minutes and took the turtle to safety. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Narita Airport office, among the five planes delayed was an All Nippon Airways (ANA) aircraft in sea-turtle livery.

    Airport administrators said the turtle is about 30 centimeters long, and weighs 2.1 kilograms. Workers from an affiliated firm rescued the reptile from the central part of the runway using a net. It is reportedly likely that the tortoise inhabits the airport's retention pond about 100 meters away.

    Although there have been occasional cases of cats, racoon dogs, rabbits and other animals entering the runway, the appearance of a turtle is very uncommon. Narita International Airport Corp. intends to ascertain what kind of turtle it is, and investigate what response to take.

    ANA's sea turtle-themed Airbus A380 is intended for use solely on trips to and from Hawaii, but its regular flights have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the day of the turtle's appearance, it was about to embark on its first trip to Naha, capital of Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, as part of a special tour.

    The airline released a statement, saying, "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."

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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