Earlier today Singapore Airline’s Facebook page posted an unusual warning on its Facebook page. Around 4:00pm Singapore time the airline posted the following:
North Korea is reportedly planning a rocket launch in the coming days. We wish to reassure our customers that none of our flights will be operating in airspace that may be affected by the planned launch.
Singapore Airlines’ warning is unusual for a number of reasons. The first and foremost reason Singapore Airlines passengers have little reason to worry about North Korea’s rocket launch is that Singapore Airlines flies around North Korean airspace rather than through it, as do most airlines, except those flying into North Korea.
The airspace around North Korea is restricted and considered hostile, causing the majority of the airlines around the world, including Singapore Airlines, to create flight plans ensuring their aircraft stay out of North Korean airspace.
The second factor that stands out about Singapore Airlines warning is this … North Korea is launching a satellite into space atop a Unha (Galaxy) 3 rocket. While the Unha 3 rocket based on the Taepoding 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, the rocket itself and its payload are of no danger to any airliners. The only real risk to aircraft in the area … and there is not much air traffic in the vicinity of the Musudan-ri launch site, in the North Hamgyong Province, along the Sea of Japan … is the rocket coming down. In North Korea’s last attempt to put a satellite into space, with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2, the Unha rocket failed to reach orbit, with the rocket’s first stage falling into the Sea of Japan and the remainder of the rocket falling into the Pacific Ocean, roughly 2,390 miles from the launch site.
So … if you are planning to fly with Singapore Airlines this week, expect your flights to arrive and depart on time, likely with no diversions to avoid rocket parts falling from the sky.
If you are flying any airline from Japan, know that Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are adjusting their flight paths, and plan to operate normally, with no delay and no cause for alarm.