Have you ever wondered what a jet sounds like if you were just floating at altitude without an engine?
It was an incident likely to cause ‘Light Chop’ for the Delta Airlines A319. Delta flight 159 from Boston to Detroit faced some rather unique traffic back on March 26, 2017. A weather balloon known as an OLHZN or ‘Overlook Horizon High Altitude Balloon’ had taken off from Honeoye, NY near Rochester New York. Over Newark, New York (not New Jersey), the balloon and the airliner had a close encounter at 38,000 feet.
In the video released by the OLHZN team, you can see that the balloon is less than a thousand feet below the Airbus. This video is really unique for a couple of reasons. The balloon is nearly stationary and doesn’t have a motor. Therefore, the balloon is able to capture the native and typically serene sounds of the world. In this case though, the passing Delta jet sounds like a fighter aircraft buzzing by a crowd at low altitude. The jet passes by the balloon at 400+ knots.
This is a very different perspective than most people who observe jets at altitude. Pilots frequently see crossing traffic. But they see traffic from their perspective where they are also moving through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour. They also never hear the other aircraft’s engine noise(or if they do, its a very bad day!).
Airliner encounters with weather balloons aren’t all that common. They occasionally occur as the balloon rises above the flight levels where airliners typically fly. Air traffic controllers are aware of these balloon flights and do their best to route traffic around them. In the video post, the OLHZN team had this to say about the flight, “All of our flights follow FAA Federal Aviation Regulation requirements outlined in FAR 101 and have NOTAMs filed with the FAA and coordination is performed with the local ARTCCs and airports to ensure safe operations.”
The balloon eventually climbed to an altitude of 102,544 FT. and landed northwest of Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about this weather balloon flight, watch the video below: