The debris was so close to the aircraft that the pilot could hear the roar it made as it broke the sound barrier.
The alarmed Airbus pilot notified Auckland Oceanic Centre after seeing flaming space junk shooting across the sky about five nautical miles in front of and behind his plane at about 10pm.
At the aircraft's cruising speed of 880km/h it was within about 40 seconds of a potential catastrophe.
According to a planespotter who was tuning in to a high-frequency radio broadcast at the time, the pilot "reported that the rumbling noise from the space debris could be heard over the noise of the aircraft".
"He described how he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it re-entered [the earth's atmosphere]. He was a very worried pilot as you would imagine.
"Auckland is talking to [an] Aerolineas Argentinas [pilot] who is travelling [in the] opposite direction at 10 degrees further south asking if they wish to turn back to Auckland. They have elected to carry on at the moment.
"It is not something you come across every day and I am sure the Lan Chile crew will have a tale to tell," the planespotter said.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This is every aviator's worst nightmare. To be hit by something falling from space! Scary stuff. A Lan Chile Airlines Airbus A340 flying from Santiago, Chile, was nearly hit by what looks like a meteor while it was flying in New Zealand airspace. From The New Zealand Herald:
Posted by I.Z. Reloaded at 1:08 PM
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