Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

An Air Canada flight from Vancouver may have spotted a Chinese spy balloon

Were you on this flight?
Was the first Chinese spy Balloon spotted on an Air Canada flight out of Vancouver's YVR airport?

A Chinese balloon that was observed flying in Canadian airspace may have been spotted by the country's largest airline on a flight from Vancouver.

Transport Canada receives information about aviation occurrences from several sources including NAV Canada, which is a privately-run corporation operating Canada's air traffic control. The data is then entered into its Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS).

A report issued on Feb. 8 states that an Air Canada Airbus 320-211 (C-FNVU/ACA292) departed from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) en route to Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) on Jan. 31 and observed a "large balloon about 4,000 feet above them with something hanging from it" while it was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet over Cranbrook and the Canadian Rockies. 

The incident report notes that the "North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) was advised." 

Air Canada told V.I.A. that it had no information to add to the CADORS report. 

While Transport Canada also didn't have any information to add to the report, spokesperson Sau Sau Liu emphasized that the data in these reports should be treated "as preliminary, unsubstantiated and subject to change."

Depending on the incident reported, additional steps may be "undertaken by various organizations including Transport Canada, NAV CANADA, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, and the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD)," she told V.I.A. in an email.

NORAD could not provide specific comments on the Air Canada observation, either.

Was it a Chinese spy balloon that was detected in B.C. skies?

In a U.S. Department of Defense transcript on the "high-altitude surveillance balloon recovery efforts," NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck remarked that the balloon was 200 feet tall, or roughly the size of a regional jet airliner, weighing in excess of 2,000 pounds. 

"So I would -- from a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky. That's really what we're kind of talking about," he said.

While Chinese officials stated that it was a weather balloon, many experts believe it was used to collect intelligence from Canada and the United States. Some of them say the balloons move with purpose, unlike ones used for weather data, while others expressed concern that they could carry biological or chemical agents.

U.S. officials say the first balloon was definitely a surveillance device sent by China and President Joe Biden ordered it to be shot down. 

Recent reports suggest the working theory is that the balloon was originally dispatched to examine U.S. military installations in Guam in the western Pacific Ocean, only to be blown so badly off course by high winds that it ended up drifting across North American airspace.

The balloon, which drifted through both Canadian and U.S. airspace, crossed the U.S. on a meandering journey that finally ended when it was downed over the Atlantic just off the South Carolina coast.

With files from Graeme Wood and The Canadian Press.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks