China’s spy balloon provides exciting opportunity for photographers, aviation enthusiasts

The incident involving a Chinese spy balloon flying over the continental United States and being shot down off the east coast this week made headlines for its intrigue and international implications, but for aviation enthusiasts and some photographers, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As the balloon traversed the US from Montana over the midwest and eventually making its way off the coast of South Carolina, where it was shot down by the US Air Force on Saturday, photographers across the country flocked outside to capture a piece of international history. The results have yielded fascinating images and videos of the balloon flying over various parts of the country, and being shot out of the sky by a US air-to-air missile.

One photographer, Chase Doak, who is a former employee of the Billings Gazette in Montana, captured photos of the balloon that went viral and have launched him into fame in the last week as he has booked a series of interviews about his images. Doak says he was simply “in the right place at the right time,” according to KTVQ.

For aviation hobbyists, the event was a rare opportunity to listen in on a real-time US military operation that had the attention of the world. The US government announced it was planning on shooting down the balloon as soon as it was located over water and in US territory, and aviation buffs took to their radios to listen as NORAD’s eastern air defense sector controller tracked the distance between the balloon and US jet sent to shoot it out of the sky. 

According to the Associated Press, NORAD’s biggest challenge was ensuring the balloon was shot down over US waters but also no less than 6 miles offshore to avoid damage to land and civilians. The hobbyists heard in real time as the pilot advised the balloon had been shot down. “The balloon is completely destroyed!” said a pilot from a fighter jet involved in the takedown. The pilot added, “There appears to be metal chaff clouds. … It’s definitely metal breaking apart.”

The balloon and all debris recovered by the US Navy is being assessed by the FBI.




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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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