Charleston flights to resume after U.S. downs Chinese balloon

The U.S. military has downed a Chinese that balloon was spotted Saturday just off the coast of Murrells Inlet with military jets in chase. (Source: Austin Bond)
Published: Feb. 4, 2023 at 2:11 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2023 at 4:38 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - The Federal Aviation Administration says flights to and from the Charleston International Airport are resuming following the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The balloon traversed sensitive military sites across North America and became the latest flashpoint in tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The United States on Saturday downed it off the Carolina coast. An operation was underway in U.S. territorial waters to recover debris from the balloon, which had been flying at about 60,000 feet and was estimated to be about the size of three school buses.

This footage, recorded off Myrtle Beach shows the U.S. military downing a suspected Chinese spy balloon Saturday afternoon. (Source: Nick Frags)

The downing of the balloon came shortly after Federal Aviation Administration temporarily paused departures from three airports along the Carolina coast, including the Charleston International Airport.

The decision was made to “support the Department of Defense in a national security effort,” the agency announced on Twitter. The post did not specify a reason for the grounding of planes at the three airports.

Airport spokesman Spencer Pryor confirmed that the agency had halted all flights but referred questions as to the reason for the decision to the FAA.

Video caught by WMBF's meteorologist Robert Whitehurst shows the moments after the US shot down...
Video caught by WMBF's meteorologist Robert Whitehurst shows the moments after the US shot down the Chinese balloon off the coast. (Robert Whitehurst/WMBF)

But the announcement of the grounding came as the Biden Administration moved forward with a plan to shoot down a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on U.S. military.

It would be brought down once it is above the Atlantic Ocean where the remnants could potentially be recovered, according to two U.S. officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said President Joe Biden had given the go-ahead. In a brief remark Saturday in response to a reporter’s question about the balloon, Biden said: “We’re going to take care of it.”

The balloon was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast. In preparation for the operation, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coastline, including the airports in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina.

The FAA was rerouting air traffic from the area and warned of delays as a result of the flight restrictions.

Just after 3 p.m., the FAA tweeted that all of the airports would be resuming normal operations.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.