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A litter of kittens was found inside a fighter jet at an aviation museum

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Bill Falls recently heard a strange squeaking sound coming from an airplane at the Hickory Aviation Museum in North Carolina. He's a doctor and veteran who also volunteers there.

BILL FALLS: I assumed it was a bird because they completely take over the planes in the springtime, but then it dawned on me - this was fall. There should not be birds nesting.

RASCOE: So he shined a light into the Shooting Star, a 1950s fighter jet, where the sound was coming from.

FALLS: And very faintly in the darkness, I could see this furry, little head pop up. And as I got the light a little bit better on it, I could see that that was one furry head out of a pile of furry, little bodies. There was a whole litter of kittens there, right in the belly of the plane.

RASCOE: Falls said their mom was Phantom, a wild cat the museum volunteers had been feeding for a couple of years, and it made a lot of sense that she chose to keep her kittens safe in the Shooting Star.

FALLS: It used to have one big engine in it, which had been removed many years ago, so she had a dry, safe space that was off the ground. Food was nearby. It was kind of a perfect setup for a mom cat if she wanted a spot.

RASCOE: At first, there wasn't much Falls and his museum colleagues could do about the fighter jet's new tenants.

FALLS: Even if we wanted to get them out, it's almost impossible to get into that part of the plane to remove them. So it was really going to be up to Mom to decide when it was time for the kittens to come out.

RASCOE: Since then, Phantom has led her kittens out of the plane, and they were captured and taken to the local humane society.

FALLS: The kittens are still a little spicy. They were wild cats, but they're young enough - I think there's still an excellent chance that they can be socialized and, with some dedicated fostering, eventually adopted out from there.

RASCOE: In the meantime, museum employees and volunteers have been busy coming up with names for the litter.

FALLS: We did float a whole bunch of names - the obvious aviation-themed names, you know, Goose and Maverick and, you know, if they were a girl, maybe Amelia. Take your pick of aircraft names, you know, Prowler and Tomcat and the rest of those.

RASCOE: That was Bill Falls, a volunteer at the Hickory Aviation Museum in North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Tilda Wilson