|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1801 To 2400|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : zkc.artcc|
|Altitude||msl single value : 35000|
|Controlling Facilities||artcc : zkc.artcc|
|Operator||common carrier : air carrier|
|Make Model Name||A320|
|Operating Under FAR Part||Part 121|
|Flight Phase||cruise : level|
|Affiliation||company : air carrier|
|Function||flight crew : captain|
oversight : pic
|Affiliation||government : faa|
|Function||controller : radar|
|Anomaly||conflict : airborne less severe|
inflight encounter other
|Independent Detector||other flight crewa|
|Resolutory Action||none taken : anomaly accepted|
|Consequence||faa : reviewed incident with flight crew|
|Problem Areas||Environmental Factor|
Flight Crew Human Performance
|Primary Problem||Environmental Factor|
I noticed a large object coming towards us. It appeared to be a large WX balloon with a long tether to some sort of package hanging below it. It was approximately at 36000 ft. It passed above us and to the right of the aircraft. We immediately reported what we had seen to mci center. Their response was; 'roger.' if the hard object had hit our aircraft; I am convinced it would have caused serious damage. If the metal looking object hanging below the balloon had hit our windshield; we would be dead. If it had hit the engine; it would be destroyed and had it been the wing; I don't know. The next day; when flying back to phx; we asked mci center about it again. They said they had talked about it the day before after we reported it. They told us that the balloons were launched daily from 3 airports in the area; okc; ict; and somewhere else. Mci told us that they have parachutes that simply deflate and return to earth. They could not see or report them without any type of transponder attached to them. I believe this is a serious threat to aviation and to my aircraft. The odds of having a balloon going through my windshield are probably infinitely small; but if it can happen it will happen! I have never seen this sort of thing over 20 yrs of flying. Maybe the balloons are necessary to WX forecasting or whatever; but ATC needs a method of reporting them as traffic to aircraft. A transponder should be attached so they can be seen! I truly believe this is a real threat to safety!callback conversation with reporter revealed the following information: reporter stated that he has never seen a balloon during his 20 plus yrs of flying and felt that this was a dangerous situation. If it was night or IMC and he was unable to avoid the balloon and its payload; the impact would have certainly done major damage or possible catastrophic damage. He was surprised when he discussed it with ATC that the controllers had no way of knowing that the balloon was present. He felt that some sort of identification method should be attached to the balloon in the form of a transponder or some way radar can detect the balloon.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: A320 FLT CREW ENCOUNTERS A WX BALLOON WITH A PAYLOAD PACKAGE AT FL350.
Narrative: I NOTICED A LARGE OBJECT COMING TOWARDS US. IT APPEARED TO BE A LARGE WX BALLOON WITH A LONG TETHER TO SOME SORT OF PACKAGE HANGING BELOW IT. IT WAS APPROX AT 36000 FT. IT PASSED ABOVE US AND TO THE R OF THE ACFT. WE IMMEDIATELY REPORTED WHAT WE HAD SEEN TO MCI CTR. THEIR RESPONSE WAS; 'ROGER.' IF THE HARD OBJECT HAD HIT OUR ACFT; I AM CONVINCED IT WOULD HAVE CAUSED SERIOUS DAMAGE. IF THE METAL LOOKING OBJECT HANGING BELOW THE BALLOON HAD HIT OUR WINDSHIELD; WE WOULD BE DEAD. IF IT HAD HIT THE ENG; IT WOULD BE DESTROYED AND HAD IT BEEN THE WING; I DON'T KNOW. THE NEXT DAY; WHEN FLYING BACK TO PHX; WE ASKED MCI CTR ABOUT IT AGAIN. THEY SAID THEY HAD TALKED ABOUT IT THE DAY BEFORE AFTER WE REPORTED IT. THEY TOLD US THAT THE BALLOONS WERE LAUNCHED DAILY FROM 3 ARPTS IN THE AREA; OKC; ICT; AND SOMEWHERE ELSE. MCI TOLD US THAT THEY HAVE PARACHUTES THAT SIMPLY DEFLATE AND RETURN TO EARTH. THEY COULD NOT SEE OR RPT THEM WITHOUT ANY TYPE OF XPONDER ATTACHED TO THEM. I BELIEVE THIS IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO AVIATION AND TO MY ACFT. THE ODDS OF HAVING A BALLOON GOING THROUGH MY WINDSHIELD ARE PROBABLY INFINITELY SMALL; BUT IF IT CAN HAPPEN IT WILL HAPPEN! I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS SORT OF THING OVER 20 YRS OF FLYING. MAYBE THE BALLOONS ARE NECESSARY TO WX FORECASTING OR WHATEVER; BUT ATC NEEDS A METHOD OF RPTING THEM AS TFC TO ACFT. A XPONDER SHOULD BE ATTACHED SO THEY CAN BE SEEN! I TRULY BELIEVE THIS IS A REAL THREAT TO SAFETY!CALLBACK CONVERSATION WITH RPTR REVEALED THE FOLLOWING INFO: RPTR STATED THAT HE HAS NEVER SEEN A BALLOON DURING HIS 20 PLUS YRS OF FLYING AND FELT THAT THIS WAS A DANGEROUS SITUATION. IF IT WAS NIGHT OR IMC AND HE WAS UNABLE TO AVOID THE BALLOON AND ITS PAYLOAD; THE IMPACT WOULD HAVE CERTAINLY DONE MAJOR DAMAGE OR POSSIBLE CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE. HE WAS SURPRISED WHEN HE DISCUSSED IT WITH ATC THAT THE CTLRS HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING THAT THE BALLOON WAS PRESENT. HE FELT THAT SOME SORT OF ID METHOD SHOULD BE ATTACHED TO THE BALLOON IN THE FORM OF A XPONDER OR SOME WAY RADAR CAN DETECT THE BALLOON.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of January 2009 and automatically converted to unabbreviated mixed upper/lowercase text. This report is for informational purposes with no guarantee of accuracy. See NASA's ASRS site for official report.