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Originally published February 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 15, 2007 at 1:31 PM

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Squirrel discovery diverts Tokyo-Dallas flight to Hawaii

An American Airlines flight made an unscheduled landing in Honolulu after pilots heard something skittering about in the wire-laden space over the cockpit.

By the Associated Press

HONOLULU -- An American Airlines flight made an unscheduled landing in Honolulu after pilots heard something skittering about in the wire-laden space over the cockpit.

The airline blamed the emergency landing of the Tokyo-Dallas flight with 202 passengers on a stowaway squirrel.

"You do not want a varmint up in the wiring areas and what-have-you on an airplane. You don't want anything up there," said John Hotard, spokesman for the Ft. Worth, Texas-based airline. He said pilots feared the animal would chewed through wiring or cause other problems.

"So, as a precaution, we diverted," Hotard said.

Once on the ground late, the Boeing 777's human passengers were put up in hotel rooms and later rebooked on other flights.

Officers with the state and federal agriculture and wildlife officials boarded the plane, set traps, and captured the eastern gray squirrel.

The species is native to parts of North America, and has been introduced to other areas, including South Africa, England and Italy.

It isn't known where or how the squirrel boarded the plan, said Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the state Agriculture Department.

Hotard said the plane had flown to Tokyo directly from New York before the Dallas flight.

Honolulu, however, proved to be the squirrel's final destination.

Fearing it may have been carrying rabies, authorities had the rodent killed, Saneishi said.

The results of lab tests on the animal were still pending Wednesday.

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