The pilots of a Boeing 777-300 passenger jet operated by Qatar Airways were forced to make evasive manoeuvres in order to avoid a large balloon carrying an advertising banner as it made its final approach to São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport on Sunday.
The roughly four-year-old aircraft with seating capacity for as many as 354 passengers managed to land safely and the Doha-based airline says the aircraft remained within normal “safety margins” at all times.
Images taken by a photographer on the ground, as well as a passenger onboard the aircraft, however, show just how close the balloon got to the aircraft. Local media report that advertising balloons are illegal and there should have been no flight activity around the airport.
In a statement, Qatar Airways said it was “aware of an event concerning one of its aircraft involving an unmanned balloon before landing in Sao Paulo”.
“The flight landed as normal and safety margins were maintained at all times. The captain filed a report following the flight, which is now being investigated by the Brazilian authorities.”
Throughout 2020, there were several reports made by pilots landing at Los Angeles International Airport for a man wearing a jet pack and flying close to aircraft. No culprit was ever identified but investigators now believe the ‘jet pack’ may have been a life-sized balloon that resembles the Jack Skellington character from Tim Burton’s 1993 movie ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas.’
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.