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Oh, Say Can You See the Rocket's Red Glare?

A Garuda Indonesia Jakarta-Jeddah Flight Gets a Too-Close Look at an Indian Warhead as it Flies through the Launch Area of an Agni III Ballistic Test Missile.

(4/15/2007) A Garuda Indonesia B-747 aircraft carrying 390 passengers and 21 crew reportedly had a narrow brush with disaster on Thursday, April 12, 2007, when it had a close encounter with a nuclear-capable ballistic missile filed by the Indian Government.

Garuda 980 on a flight from Jakarta to Jeddah flew into a missile testing area near Wheeler Island off the eastern state of Orissa where it reportedly was close enough to a missile launch to see the long-range missile with its distinctive tails of yellow and orange smoke.

Garuda's General Manager in Jeddah, Muhammad Helmy, told the press that Garuda's Jeddah-bound regular Flight 980, carrying 390 passengers and 21 crew, had to return to Jakarta on Thursday afternoon after the nearest airport of Columbo, in Sri Lanka, refused the Captain of the Boeing 747 permission to land.

After several hours on the ground back in Jakarta, the flight resumed its trip to Jeddah, Another Garuda bound flight for Jeddah also operated on a delayed schedule tied to the Indian missile testing.

While Indian Civil Aviation authorities are adamant that all necessary notices to airman closing the subject airspace were issued well in advance of the firing, Air India also reported one of its incoming flights from Singapore was forced to return to Singapore because of the missile launch program.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs has said that Indonesia's Ambassador to Jakarta is being summoned for an official explanation in the near air-tragedy.