National Security

FAA resumes flights at three airports after Chinese balloon shot down

The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down due to risks of harm for people on the ground, officials said Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has resumed flights at three airports in North Carolina and South Carolina after pausing them temporarily as the Chinese surveillance balloon moved across those states before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. 

The FAA said in a statement on Saturday that it paused departures and arrivals at Wilmington International Airport in North Carolina and Myrtle Beach International and Charleston International airports in South Carolina to support the Defense Department in a “national security effort.” They also closed additional airspace.

The agency reported around 3:15 p.m. that flights to and from these airports resumed and the airspace has been reopened. This comes after U.S. officials reportedly shot down the suspected spy balloon over ocean, and are working to clean up the debris.

The White House avoided shooting it down while was over land, because of concerns that falling debris could injure people on the ground. 

The Twitter account Flightradar24, which tracks air traffic internationally in real time, tweeted a picture showing an area off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina that flights have been told to avoid without authorization to be there.

Almost no flight was in the area based on the picture posted just after 2 p.m.

Officials said balloon was traveling at about 60,000 feet above the ground, which is considerably higher than the roughly 40,000 feet maximum altitude that commercial airplanes fly at. 

The Chinese government has denied that the balloon’s purpose is surveillance, claiming that it is a weather balloon that went off course, and said it did not intend to violate any country’s sovereignty. 

U.S. officials have rejected this and have stood by their conclusion that the balloon’s purpose is surveillance.

Updated at 3:37 p.m.

Tags Charleston International Airport Chinese spy balloon Chinese surveillance balloon Federal Aviation Administration Myrtle Beach International Airport National security North Carolina South Carolina The Associated Press Wilmington Airport

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