Flight Crew Saw North Korean Missile Break Apart, says Airline Executive

The launch of the Hwasong-15 the missile North Korea tested last Wednesday

The missile soared to a height of 2,800 miles, ten times higher than the worldwide space station, and then came nearly straight down.

The move came after the July 27 missile launch by North Korea into the Sea of Japan, Singapore Airlines said on Tuesday (Dec 5) in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.

The most recent test took place November 29 and was sighted by airline crews on at least three commercial flights by Korean Air and Cathay Pacific.

The threat posed by North Korea's sudden missile launches to civilian aviation is a growing concern in the region, although experts rate the probability of midair collisions as very low.

While North Korea has claimed that their new weapon has put all parts of the United States within reach of a devastating strike, USA officials say the latest test was a failure since the missile broke apart on re-entry as the airliner witnessed.

Despite coming close enough to see the missile's reentry, Cathay Pacific told the BBC that there are no plans to change flight patterns at this time.

The AP reported the missile was in the air for almost an hour and reached an altitude of 2,780 miles before plummeting into the Sea of Japan about 600 miles from its launch point.

The Hwasong-15's missile test zone and CX893 flight path
Cathay Pacific reports sighting of North Korea's missile test last week

"At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters", the airline said in a statement to The Associated Press.

"Though the flight was far from the event location, the crew advised Japan ATC (Air Traffic Control) according to procedures". The North Korean ICBM launched Wednesday was shot at an extremely steep arc, nearly straight up and then straight down.

The plane, which was flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong, was over Japan at the time.

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.

The flight crew's description of the missile breaking up during re-entry suggests the regime's nuclear weapon program still has not yet developed that vehicle, though the regime itself has claimed it has completed its "state nuclear force".

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".

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