Pilot Reports 'Large White Balloon' Floating Near Hawaii

A large white balloon has been spotted floating above Honolulu by pilots flying in the area.

According to a warning shared on Twitter, the white balloon is floating east of Honolulu at an estimated altitude of between 40,000 and 50,000 feet, though the exact altitude is unknown.

"Report of large white balloon in the vicinity of 2639N15021W. Estimated to be between FL400 and FL500. Precise altitude unknown. Advise ATC if an object is seen," read a note allegedly being held by a pilot in the cockpit of one of the planes that reported seeing the balloon and shared on social media.

The presence of the balloon in the sky over Hawaii has not been confirmed by Air Traffic Control or any other U.S. officials. It's not yet clear what exactly the large balloon floating near Honolulu is, or who it belongs to.

The sighting comes just days after the U.S. shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. The presence of the Chinese balloon in U.S. territory sparked a diplomatic dispute between Washington and Beijing, with the latter insisting that the balloon was just an errant civilian airship meant for observing weather conditions.

Spy Balloon latest
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon on February 5, 2023 off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A large white balloon was reportedly spotted east of Honolulu on Monday. Getty

In recent weeks, after the dispute around the Chinese balloon brought the issue of these surveillance devices in the spotlight, several balloons have been spotted around the U.S. and shot down by the country's military.

Three unidentified objects were shot by U.S. fighter jets in the past few days after the Chinese spy balloon was brought down: one over northern Canada, one over Alaska, and another one over Lake Huron. According to national security council spokesperson John Kirby, they were all ordinary devices used for research, weather observations or commercial purposes. None of the two objects could be retrieved, unlike the Chinese spy balloon.

It's not rare, as such, to spot a balloon up in the sky. There are many up there, either launched by the National Weather Service for above-ground forecasting or by hobby balloonists. But the incident with the Chinese balloon has brought national attention to the issue of all these floating objects in the U.S. sky.

On Thursday last week, President Joe Biden said that his administration will update guidelines for encounters with similar unmanned objects flying through U.S. airspace, stating when the military should shoot them down.

"Make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down," he said.

The Biden administration has accused Beijing of operating a surveillance program that has targeted more than 40 countries. China denies it.