The government is being urged to negotiate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about changing the path taken by Cathay Pacific Airways planes operating between the United States and Hong Kong due to potential threats from North Korea’s missile tests.
The call from Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a Civic Party lawmaker who used to be a pilot, came after the airline’s staff on a flight en route to Hong Kong from San Francisco, claimed to have seen a missile explode and fall apart in the sea, raising concern that the safety of Cathay Pacific’s US-Hong Kong flights may be affected if they continue to stay on the current flight path.
In an internal notice to all cabin crew, the airline’s general manager for operations, Mark Hoey, said the crew on flight CX893 allegedly saw a missile explode and fall apart near their location on Nov. 29, when North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan after a similar launch on Aug. 29, a source at Cathay Pacific told Apple Daily.
The flight was not affected, according to the notice, which also revealed a cargo flight, CX096 from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, was in fact even closer to the location of the missile explosion.
In another internal notice obtained by Apple Daily, the company said that the incident was extremely rare, citing some experts as saying that chances are low an aircraft can be hit by a missile.
Cathay is said to be planning to offer satellite phones to its crew on flights between South Korea and Hong Kong.
Dora Lai Yuk-sim, vicechairwoman of Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, said it was first time the company had issued such notices, adding some crew members expressed fear after receiving them.
Lai urged the company to explain the incident in detail to ease worries.
In response to inquiries, the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said it will contact Cathay Pacific to learn more about the incident. It said it had not received any related report.
Civic Party’s Tam said although Cathay Pacific claimed its nearest aircraft was several hundred miles away, or more than half an hour’s flight, from the explosion, the threat cannot be ruled out, especially if North Korea does not announce its missile launches.
CAD and the Security Bureau should discuss with ICAO whether it is necessary for Cathay Pacific to change its flight path in the area in question, Tam said.
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