Published September 05, 2007
It’s not exactly the most common way to fix a commercial airliner, but officials from Nepal’s state-run airline sacrificed two goats on Sunday in effort to do just that, according to Reuters.
Faced with technical problems on an aging Boeing 757 aircraft, Nepal Airlines' representatives told local media the sacrifices were made to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god.
“The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights,” said Raju K.C., a senior airline official, without explaining what the problem had been.
Sacrificing goats may seem unusual, at least to Americans, one airline veteran said it's not outlandish in some cultures.
“It’s not that unusual to see a sacrifice going on,” said Capt. Robert Norris, a former United Airlines pilot of 30 years who has gone climbing in Nepal.
“We may say a small prayer ourselves when we take off. It’s just a part of their culture,” he said.
Ariel Glucklich, a professor of theology at Georgetown University, said that animal sacrifices go back to the beginnings of Hinduism.
“The idea of sacrifice is you offer something valuable as a way of placating the god,” said Glucklich. Still he said that kind of animal sacrifice by airline officials wouldn’t be likely in India, another predominantly Hindu nation.
“The separation between religion and the state is a lot fuzzier in Nepal,” said Glucklich. “I’m really stunned that airline officials would subscribe to that.”
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment.
“It may be one of the most effective things they’ve done” to fix the planes, said John Adams, a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia who has flown on Nepal Airlines before.
He said Nepal Airlines has had a lot of trouble with its two older 757s in recent years and that the airline runs at a deficit.
Adams also said the airline is unreliable in its service and the country has been trying to sell or reorganize the entity.
Nevertheless, Adams wasn’t that surprised to hear of the animal sacrifice.
“I don’t think it’s entirely unusual to go through a small ceremony based on some ancient custom and belief,” said Adams, comparing the practice to cracking a bottle of champagne across a boat.