Cathay Pacific Crew Reports Seeing North Korean Missile Test From the Air

Dec 4, 2017

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A Cathay Pacific crew reportedly saw last week’s North Korean missile reenter the earth’s atmosphere. The airline said in a statement that crew on board Flight 893 from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) reportedly saw the missile and advised Japanese Air Traffic Control.

On November 29, North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, one it calls its “most powerful,” capable of reaching the entire East Coast of the US. After launch, the missile spent 53 minutes in the air, leaving the earth’s atmosphere before splashing into waters off the West Coast of Japan.

The A350 and its passengers were never in any danger — the missile was far enough away from the Hong Kong-bound aircraft. As a result, Cathay said that its operations were unaffected. There are no pictures or videos from the incident, and it’s unclear if any of the video captured from the A350s external cameras was saved.

Crew on board Cathay Flight 893 aren’t the only witnesses of the missile, which went off without warning. As reported by the BBC, two South Korean aircraft, which were en route to Seoul (ICN) from the US, reportedly witnessed the missile launch as well.

The rogue nation of North Korea doesn’t typically announce its missile tests, causing some concern for aircraft that may be operating in the vicinity. The BBC reports that, on the other hand, North Korea does have access to international civil aviation data so it can analyze the airspace prior to launching a missile.

Nevertheless, the mysterious nature of North Korea is a concern for commercial aviation. Earlier this year, an Air France flight passed just east of a North Korean missile test about 5-10 minutes before the projectile hit the water. As a result, the airline expanded its no-fly zone around the country.

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