According to air traffic control recordings, the horse freed itself within 30 minutes of takeoff.
A cargo jet headed to Belgium from New York had to turn around mid-flight after a horse escaped in the hold, according to air traffic control audio.
The Boeing 747 operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic was flying across the Atlantic Ocean on 9 November.
It had just begun its journey when the pilot radioed air traffic control in Boston and said that a horse on board had escaped its stall and was loose in the hold.
The aircraft was cleared to return to John F Kennedy International Airport and landed a short while later.
Horse escapes in plane hold
According to air traffic control recordings, obtained by the YouTube channel ‘You Can See ATC’, the horse freed itself within 30 minutes of takeoff.
The pilot of the Air Atlanta Icelandic flight radioed controllers saying, "We are a cargo plane with a live animal, a horse, on board.”
“The horse managed to escape its stall,” the pilot continued. He said that there was no problem “flying-wise”, but that they needed to return to New York because they couldn’t rescue the horse.
The pilot also said that due to the plane’s weight, it was necessary to dump 20 tonnes of fuel before going back to New York to ensure a safe landing.
The controller gave the green light and the pilot made a U-turn off the coast of Boston.
Nearby pilots were also warned about a “fuel dumping in progress approximately 10 miles [16 kilometres] west of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Pilot calls for a vet
The 747 pilot had one more request. “I do believe we need a vet - veterinarian, I guess you call it, for the horse upon landing,” he said. “Is that something you can speak to New York about?”
The controller said he would pass it on.
On arrival at JFK, the controller asked if assistance was still required. “On the ground, negative. On the ramp, yes, we have a horse problem," the pilot responded.
It’s still unclear how the horse managed to get loose but it was unrestrained for the remainder of the journey to JFK, according to the audio.
The flight was able to take off a short while after landing at JFK and successfully arrived at Liege Airport on Friday morning.