Airline Crew Says They Saw North Korean Test Missile Re-Enter Atmosphere

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The report from the crew of the Hong Kong-bound flight out of San Francisco suggests that North Korea's latest missile test may not have been as successful as Pyongyang asserted in its state media reports. The missile flew ten times higher than the worldwide space station and then back down to Earth.

Crew onboard a Cathay Pacific flight last week claimed to have witnessed North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.

"On 29 November, the flight crew of CX893 reported a sighting of what is suspected to be the re-entry of the recent DPRK test missile".

He said the crew had witnessed the missile "blow up and fall apart near our location" and that another Cathay Pacific flight - CX096 between Hong Kong and Anchorage in Alaska - may have been even closer.

North Korea's Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile reached an altitude of about 4,475 km (2,780 miles) during its 53-minute flight.

Korean Air said it was unclear how far the apparent missile re-entry was from its own planes, whose flights originated in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Earlier in October, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had condemned North Korea for the repeated launching of ballistic missiles.

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"Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC (Air Traffic Control) according to procedures".

Since the North Korea regime does not announce its missiles tests and does not have access to global civil aviation data, the launches come without warning for commercial airliners and pose a potential risk to planes, the BBC News noted.

Despite their planes' close proximity to these tests, Cathay Pacific is not planning on following Singapore Airlines' lead and changing its routes any time soon.

South Korea said its northern neighbor regularly fails to issue notices to airmen (NOTAM) when conducting missile launches.

The details of the test remain unclear, with a USA official saying the missile did not manage to make a re-entry into the earth atmosphere - the key problem of the rogue communist country's nuclear program.

Last month, the F.A.A. restricted American carriers from that slice of North Korean airspace as well, citing the "hazardous situation created by North Korean military capabilities and activities, including unannounced North Korean missile launches and air defense weapons systems".