Daily flights between the South Korean capital, Seoul, and Los Angeles have been flying on a different flight path since July, a spokesperson for the airline told CNN Money on Wednesday. It hadn't previously announced the changes before this week.
"A Korean Air jet flying to Incheon from San Francisco reported to Japanese controllers that its flight crew saw a flash from what was believed to be the North Korean missile", a Korean Air spokesman said. Prior to last week's ballistic missile launch, the US spotted North Korea's military making preparations.
Moreover, a wide-open aperture and fast shutter speed would be used to capture the missile's rapid ascent, in which case, stars would not be seen clearly in an image, even in North Korea where there was very low light pollution. Hwasong-15, according to North Korean state media, reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,800 miles), and put the "whole" United States mainland in its range.
The carrier said its planes now don't enter "the vicinity of the missile trajectory", because it changed the route to avoid the northern part of the Sea of Japan, which sits between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
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Korean Air didn't provide details of theflights that saw the "flash", or say where they were at the time of the event. "At the moment, no one is changing any routes or operating parameters", Cathay said. "We remain alert and (will) review the situation as it evolves".
Korean carrier Asiana Airlines also changed flight paths on some of its routes between Korea and the USA in 2010 in order to avoid the risk of being hit by an unexpected missile.
While the UN's Civil Aviation Organization mandates that nations must issue warnings whenever they take an action that could threaten commercial flights traveling through their airspace, South Korea has said North Korea often neglects to do so, according to CNN.
David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a report Tuesday that the Cathay crew most likely had seen the missile's first stage burn out and fall back to earth.