Thu, Mar 29, 2007
Talk About Too Close For Comfort
If there really is a Chicken Little, it appears he was
on the LAN Chile airliner that barely escaped being struck by
flaming debris Tuesday night, while flying to Auckland, New Zealand
over the Pacific Ocean.
The West Australian newspaper reports the pilot of the Airbus
A340 flying from Santiago, Chile, got on the horn with controllers
at Auckland Oceanic Center following the close encounter. The
falling star -- what was left from a deorbited Russian satellite
-- streaked across the sky approximately five nautical
miles from the airliner.
One plane spotter who was monitoring the frequency at the time
told the West Australian the pilot "reported that the rumbling
noise from the space debris could be heard over the noise of the
aircraft... He described he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it
"He was one very worried pilot, as you would imagine," the
The LAN flight landed safely at Auckland... with a relieved
flight crew, who has quite a story to tell. They weren't the only
ones who experienced the close encounter; the pilot of an
Aerolineas Argentinas flight heading the opposite direction also
reportedly saw the flaming satellite, and asked to turn back to
Auckland -- for fear of being hit by additional space
On Wednesday, a spokesman for aerial navigation provider Airways
New Zealand confirmed the incident took place -- adding the agency
had been warned by Russian authorities of the impending reentry,
although it was supposed to have happened Wednesday morning.
"Either the time that was indicated to us was incorrect or the
satellite de-orbited early," the spokesman said. "But clearly there
has been a timing issue."
As they say, timing IS everything.
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