UPDATE: PENTAGON RELEASES STATEMENT ON HIGH ALTITUDE BALLOON SPOTTED IN MONTANA
“The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Thursday afternoon, Feb. 2, 2023.
The Billings Logan International airport was shut down for approximately two hours on Wednesday when the air space was ordered closed.
The Billings airport police tell Billings Beat that the airport security was not told why the air space was closed but a major carrier “…was grounded for a time. We weren’t told why.”
The Director of Aviation at Billings Logan, Shane Ketterling, reports the airport was in fact closed Wednesday for awhile and two flights were diverted and one flight was delayed during that time. The diverted flights were eventually able to land safely.
Ketterling says the Salt Lake City FAA tower shut down 50 square miles of air space over the Livingston area fly zone but it was later reopened without incident.
He also said, “orders such as these come from top FAA officials or top military without any explanation.” He says the local airport and law enforcement will probably never be briefed on the reason.
Pictures of what looks like a data gathering balloon with very sophisticated satellite technology began surfacing on social media. Unconfirmed reports were of an “unidentified flying object” but the pictures of the balloon have brought speculation that it could be a military data gathering operation. There are also unconfirmed reports that Air Force jets were circling and flying in and around the Beartooth mountains.
The FAA has not released any information or made any statements.
The Billings Police Department confirms there was never a security issue reported to detectives or officers.