WASHINGTON — A swarm of cicadas infested the exterior hull of the White House press plane Tuesday night, delaying the aircraft’s flight by more than six and a half hours.
The cicadas have arrived:Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know.
The chartered plane, originally scheduled to leave at 9 p.m., was ultimately replaced with a new aircraft that had to be called to Dulles International Airport. The plane ultimately left around 2:15 a.m.
The aircraft, an Airbus 330-300, broke down because its auxiliary power unit — a small turbine engine that powers the cabin and other onboard equipment — was damaged after being overrun with cicadas before take off.
“At issue was the presence of periodical cicadas within the APU, rendering it unworkable,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said in a statement to CNBC. “Delta teams dispatched a replacement Airbus A330 aircraft and crew to Washington-Dulles International Airport to operate the flight.”
The APU, which normally operates before a flight takes off and during its main voyage, is necessary during long flights, such asthe press flight to the United Kingdom.
“We apologize to our charter customers for this rarest of entomological delays, but still nothing is more important than safety,” Durrant said.
Cicadas are an insect family that normally lays dormant, rising in cycles by the trillions.
Large parts of the eastern U.S. have been overrun with the insects as they rise from their 17-year-long hibernation. The insects have caused more than just flight delays across the U.S.; the National Weather Service recently warned the rise of the cicadas may also be interfering with weather radar.
‘Unpredictable world’:What to expect from Biden’s first foreign trip as president
The rise of the cicadas has also led to a cultural moment, with memes, culinary dishes, and other media rising alongside the various broods.
The insects had yet to have their fill of interfering with Biden’s first trip abroad by the morning.
On Wednesday, Biden swatted away a cicada before he boarded his flight to the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K.
“Watch out for the cicadas,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One. “I just found one,” he said, swiping at his face. “It got me.”
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.