Flaming space junk from a Russian satellite narrowly missed hitting a Chilean airliner over the Pacific Ocean, reports said Wednesday.
The pilot of a LAN Chile Airbus A340 en route to New Zealand told air traffic controllers he had seen pieces of flaming space junk falling about eight kilometres (four miles) in front of the plane and behind it, TV3 said.
The aircraft was not struck by any of the debris and later landed safely in Auckland.
Airways New Zealand, which manages New Zealand’s air traffic, said it had been warned by Russian authorities that an obsolete satellite was due to fall into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.
But the debris had apparently fallen into the area 12 hours earlier than the time advised by the Russians.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, which is responsible for air safety, said it would launch an inquiry after it was advised of the details of the incident.