Mon, Mar 30, 2015 - Page 1 News List

CAA reports no deviation from new M503 air route

EYE ON THE SKY:The Civil Aeronautics Administration said its new regulations would require at least two people to remain in the cockpits of commercial flights

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

China began commercial flights along its controversial M503 air route yesterday morning, with six international flights employing it, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said.

No “abnormal movements” were detected along the route, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.

Critics say the new route — unilaterally announced by Beijing — is too close to Taiwan’s airspace.

Council officials said they would continue monitoring the route and take appropriate measures to protect Taiwan’s national security.

The establishment of the new route in China’s Shanghai flight information region sparked national security concerns, as part of it is just 7.8km from the median line of the Taiwan Strait. The Strait’s median line is the de facto boundary between Taiwan and China.

CAA records from yesterday showed that six flights had used the route as of 11:30am, with five of them departing from Shanghai Pudong Airport and one leaving from Qindao.

Of the Shanghai flights, four were Dragonair trips to Hong Kong, and one was a Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur. The one leaving from Qingdao was a China Eastern Airlines flight to Hong Kong.

The CAA said that none of these flights deviated from the route and maintained altitudes of 31,000 feet (9,449m) or above.

The agency said that 16 airline companies have applied to use the route, adding that the number of daily flights should not exceed 30.

Beijing had planned to start sending commercial aircraft along the route on March 5.

Due to a fierce reaction from the Taiwanese public, China and Taiwan engaged in cross-strait negotiations. China postponed the launch of the route to yesterday and agreed to move it to the west by 6 nautical miles (11km).

In a report to the legislature on Thursday last week, National Security Bureau Director-General Lee Shying-jow (李翔宙) said that the modified commercial route — now slightly closer to China than originally planned — would leave Taiwan with considerable leeway to react to any potential air attacks and would reduce China’s own patrol areas for Chinese fighter jets in the Taiwan Strait.

In other news, the CAA yesterday said it would announce its new aviation safety bulletin today, asking all domestic airlines to amend their safety management procedures by requiring that there be at least two members of the flight crew in the cockpit at all times during flights.

It added that it would conduct inspections to determine whether airlines observe the new rule.

Prior to the announcement, most domestic airlines announced over the weekend that they would start enforcing the rule following the crash of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 on Tuesday last week.

French air accident investigators released some evidence from the cockpit voice recorder on Thursday that seemed to show the pilot was locked out of the cockpit during the flight and that the copilot was alone inside the cockpit before the fatal crash occurred.

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