North Korea's unannounced missile tests raises flight safety concerns after Cathay Pacific crew's experience

A North Korean ballistic missile was seen by the crew of several airliners last week, aviation authorities said on Wednesday, raising concerns about the threat to civilian flights posed by Pyongyang's unannounced tests.

AFP December 06, 2017 15:06:37 IST
North Korea's unannounced missile tests raises flight safety concerns after Cathay Pacific crew's experience

Seoul: A North Korean ballistic missile was seen by the crew of several airliners last week, aviation authorities said on Wednesday, raising concerns about the threat to civilian flights posed by Pyongyang's unannounced tests.

The North has conducted a flurry of missile tests this year in defiance of repeated international protests, including from aviation authorities.

North Koreas unannounced missile tests raises flight safety concerns after Cathay Pacific crews experience

Representational image. AP

Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, which reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometres before splashing into the sea 950 kilometres east of its launch site, North Korean state media said.

"A Korean Air jet flying to Incheon from San Francisco reported to Japanese controllers that its flight crew saw a flash from what was believed to be the North Korean missile," a Korean Air spokesman told AFP.

Four minutes later another Korean Air plane on a Los Angeles-Incheon flight also reported the same sighting to Japanese control, he said.

A South Korean transportation ministry official, who wanted to remain unnamed, said the flight paths of both Korean airlines were some 220 kilometres away from where the missile landed.

"In the clean dark sky, you can see flashes from a missile from that long distance," he told AFP.

Japan's transport ministry also said air controllers in the country received reports of four such sightings.

A Japan Airlines spokesman said the cockpit crew of one of its airliners, flying from Tokyo to London, "saw a bright flame falling down" over the sea of Japan.

The reports from South Korea and Japan come after Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Monday that the crew of its flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong saw "what is suspected to be the re-entry" of the North Korean missile.

Cathay said there was no current plan to change air routes, saying its plane was "far from the event location".

In a message shared with staff, Cathay general manager Mark Hoey said the crew had described seeing the missile "blow up and fall apart", the South China Morning Post reported.

David C Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a report Tuesday that the Cathay crew most likely had seen the missile's first stage burn out and fall back to earth.

"Ignition of the second stage rocket engine and separation of the first stage may have looked like an explosion that caused the missile to fall apart," he wrote.

Wright also said the "flash" seen by Korean pilots about an hour after the missile's launch would be consistent with the warhead heating up during re-entry, since the missile flew for 53 to 54 minutes.

North Korea stopped giving advance notice of its missile tests in 2014.

Updated Date:

also read

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea's Kim Jong-un, warns South Korea-US drills will rekindle tensions
World

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea's Kim Jong-un, warns South Korea-US drills will rekindle tensions

Regular drills between Seoul and Washington have been a long-running source of animosities on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea calling them an invasion rehearsal

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Why Japan's 'rising sun' flag provokes Olympic ire?
Sports

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Why Japan's 'rising sun' flag provokes Olympic ire?

There are two rising sun flags associated with Japan and have been used for centuries. But disputes about the "rising sun" flag date back to the early part of the 20th century