A Chilean jetliner approaching New Zealand came within 20 seconds of being hit by blazing objects hurtling down to Earth, New Zealand aviation officials say.
The Lan Chile pilot flying from Santiago, Chile, notified air traffic controllers at Auckland after spotting the flaming objects just five nautical miles (9.2 kilometres) in front of and behind his Airbus 340.
According to a plane spotter, who was tuning into 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 he saw a piece of debris lighting up as it re-entered [the earth's atmosphere].
"For [the pilot] to have heard it, one of two things - [the debris] was a lot closer than he thinks or it was bigger and going at quite a high speed. "In other words, it's caused the piece to break the speed of sound which is what he's heard - the sound barrier.''
The assistant secretary of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Captain Steven Anderson, who flies for Qantas, said that based on the details of the report, the debris could have caused catastrophic consequences had it actually struck the aircraft.
& SMHTags: Meteorite | Space Debris | Space Junk | Plane
Labels: Astronomy, Transportation