FAA grounds US flights amid North Korea missile launch


People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile into its eastern sea, its second weapons launch in a week, the militaries of South Korea and Japan said. The Korean letters read “North Korea launched a hypersonic missile last time.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

(NewsNation Now) — The Federal Aviation Administration issued a full ground stop Monday night, stopping every plane from taking off or landing at airports along the West Coast for several minutes.

The ground stop order corresponded with North Korea’s apparent firing of a ballistic missile into the sea off Japan. It’s unclear if the two events were connected.

The FAA confirmed the grounding on Tuesday, saying in a statement:

As a matter of precaution, the FAA temporality paused departures at some airports along the West Coast on Monday night. Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes. The FAA regularly takes precautionary measures. We are reviewing the process around this ground stop as we do after all such events.

Sabrina LoPiccolo, a spokesperson for San Diego International Airport, told The Associated Press that it halted flights for up to seven minutes over a “national ground stop” at 2:30 p.m. local time, which was just minutes after the launch.

Air-traffic controllers in other West Coast areas similarly ordered aircraft down, according to recordings shared online. A San Francisco air traffic controller ordered flights to avoid its airspace and not take off or land around the time without explaining why, according to a recording by the website LiveATC.net.

“Things are changing really quick,” the air traffic controller said in the recording, adding later, “I just heard something about ground-stopping all aircraft, so I don’t know anything, just hold tight there.”

An air-traffic controller at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport similarly told aircraft in the region they received an order for a “ground stop, all aircraft, all airports.” Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles International Airport also acknowledged receiving an order to stop departures at the same time, without explanation, according to another recording.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea’s missile launch did not pose an “immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies.”

The firing was North Korea’s second launch in a week as Kim Jong Un has made calls to expand its nuclear weapons program in defiance of international opposition.

The launches follow a series of weapons tests in 2021 that underscored how North Korea is continuing to expand its military capabilities during a self-imposed pandemic lockdown and deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said officials were checking the safety of ships and aircraft around Japan, but there were no immediate reports of disruptions or damage.

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