Cathay-Pacific says airline crew saw North Korean missile launch
The crew of a Cathay Pacific flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong reported what they believed was a North Korean ballistic missile re-entering the Earth's atmosphere last Wednesday, the airline has said.
According to CNN, the flight crew reported the incident to Japan ATC (Air Traffic Control) and the airline’s head office, following set procedures.
Cathay-Pacific said in a statement that it has been in contact with relevant authorities, industry bodies and other airlines about the incident, and has no plans at present to change its flight routes.
"Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC (Air Traffic Control) according to procedures. Operation remained normal and was not affected," the statement said. "We remain alert and review the situation as it evolves."
North Korea last Wednesday test-fired what is believed to be its biggest and most powerful missile, the Hwasong-15, which is thought to be capable of striking anywhere in the continental United States.
It was the re-entry of this missile into the atmosphere that the Cathay-Pacific crew reportedly witnessed.
It's not the first time this year a North Korean missile has had a close call with a passenger plane.
An Air France plane in June passed near the splashdown site of a North Korean missile.
At the time, US Defense Department spokesman Jeff Davis warned the intercontinental ballistic missile North Korea tested in July "flew through busy airspace used by commercial airliners."
However, industry experts have pointed out that the chances of a ballistic missile from North Korea hitting a commercial airliner are in the billions to one.
Nonetheless, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency tasked with governing air safety and other matters, considers a missile test to be a threat to the safety of civilian aircraft and its guidelines state that nations have the "responsibility to issue risk advisories regarding any threats to the safety of civilian aircraft operating in their airspace."
North Korea regularly fails to issue such notices to airmen (NOTAM) when conducting missile launches, according to South Korean officials.