Offbeat

By Mikey Jones


A stunned pilot watched epic white balloons caused by missiles shoot up in front of him.

Dutch Pilot Christiaan van Heijst, 34, cannot resist pulling his camera out whenever possible in the cockpit of a  Boeing 747-8 Freighter.

PIC BY Christiaan van Heijst / CATERS NEWS

Christiaan took these breathtaking photos during a flight from Hong Kong to Baku in Azerbaijan on Sunday on an airway heading over the Himalayas.

The plane was flying at 32.100ft roughly one hour after the sun had set below the horizon when an alarming bright blast soared past.

Christiaan said: “Suddenly we noticed a very bright spot on the horizon that rapidly grew in size and altitude.

PIC BY Christiaan van Heijst / CATERS NEWS

“It looked like a balloon or strange cloud at first, but a few seconds later I recognised it as the contrail of a rocket or missile that was shot up in the sky.

“I have seen it many times before on video and photos, and noticed the typical speed and characteristics of such a trail.

“Roughly one minute later I noticed the first balloon was still growing but seemed to be rounded off on the top while a second contrail started just above the first one.

“I figured this was the second stage of a rocket ignited and this confirmed my idea that we were witnessing a very powerful missile being launched.

PIC BY Christiaan van Heijst / CATERS NEWS

“We knew certain parts of the Chinese airspace north and south of our route were closed but no details were given to us and we were not informed there was supposed to be missile launch so the event took us by surprise.

“The airway and airspace where we flew was open and also the air traffic control gave us no prior warning.

“Later I found out that it was a Chinese test for an anti-ballistic missile system they are creating which are basically missiles to shoot other missiles out of the sky.

PIC BY Christiaan van Heijst / CATERS NEWS

“Also, I learned that the restricted area north of our route was the launch site and the restricted areas south of our route were the places where the debris was expected to fall back to earth.

“The rocket basically flew right over us at very high altitude. For as far as we know, we were one of the very few- if not only- aircraft to fly there at that time.