North Korean Missile Test Prompts FAA to Briefly Ground Some U.S. Flights

North Korean Missile Test: Flights from some airports on the west coast of the United States were briefly halted by aviation regulators as a precaution on Monday after North Korea fired a high-speed missile in a test.

The so-called ground stop, which suspended departures from an unknown number of airports, lasted less than 15 minutes.

The North Korean missile flew at nearly 10 times the speed of sound in the waters off its east coast, exacerbating tensions in the region and with the United States

The Federal Aviation Administration regularly issues ground stops to ensure that airports and high altitude flight paths remain orderly. They can occur for weather reasons, volcanic eruptions, or for a number of reasons. On Monday afternoon, for example, the FAA ordered a brief halt to flights in the central region of the United States due to the volume of planes linked to the college football championship game in Indianapolis.

Although they don’t remember any previous shutdowns of US flights linked to a launch in North Korea, two air traffic experts said it was no surprise that the FAA and the US military put in place a system to alert on such events.

The air traffic system is designed to handle unusual situations that could put planes at risk, said Dave Canoles, a consultant who was previously the FAA’s director of air traffic safety oversight. When in doubt, controllers and managers are trained to slow the flow of planes until they can better understand the risks, Canoles said.

“This shows that the whole system is monitoring and responsive to global events,” said John Hansman, professor of aerospace at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The overall damage is low” if flights are stopped for a short time, Hansman said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the FAA’s action during a briefing on Tuesday. “I think it was a 15 minute ground timeout and they did it out of caution and they were going to assess their approach going forward,” Psaki said.

The FAA did not immediately respond to questions about whether it had ever halted flights following North Korean missile launches.

“We are reviewing the process around this ground stoppage as we are doing after all of these events,” the agency said in the statement.

The US Indo-Pacific Military Command issued a statement Monday evening that the launch “did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory.”

—With help from Justin Sink.

The North Korean missile post test invites the FAA to briefly ground some US flights that appeared first on TIME.



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