The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) yesterday released more details concerning a cross-strait flight that landed in Taipei 24 hours late after returning to Shanghai to avoid bad weather.
The CAA disclosed communication transcripts between Shanghai Airlines flight FM80Y and the control tower in Taipei, in which it was clear that inclement weather prevented the flight from landing in Taipei.
The Shanghai Airlines flight was scheduled to arrive at Taipei Songshan Airport on Saturday morning.
After the pilot announced that the plane would soon land in Taipei, he turned back to Shanghai Pudong International Airport because of bad weather.
The passengers spent the night at Pudong airport, reboarding on Sunday. When they finally arrived in Taipei, passengers protested the decision to return to Shanghai on Saturday by refusing to embark for 30 minutes.
Wei Sheng-chih (魏勝之), director of Taipei International Airport Office, said yesterday the CAA was responsible for determining whether the pilot’s claims of bad weather could be substantiated.
“As to why tourists were stranded at Shanghai for a day, it may have something to do with Shanghai Airlines’ deployment of airplanes, flight attendants and pilots,” Wei said. “We cannot speak for them on those matters.”
The transcripts showed that the pilot contacted the Taipei Area Control Center before the aircraft approached Sulem, the flight control exchange point for cross-strait flights, at 10:28am on Saturday, asking for permission to deviate slightly from its course and fly east to avoid a thunderstorm.
The center consulted the military’s air operation center and agreed to the pilot’s request at 10:30am.
At 10:49am, the Shanghai Area Control Center asked the Taipei Area Control Center to instruct the pilot to fly westward.
The pilot said “the weather was really bad” and that he could soon get back on course if he continued eastward.
In the meantime, the aircraft was flying southward toward the Taiwan Strait, which no civilian flights are allowed to enter.
At 10:51am, the pilot requested permission to return to Pudong. Seven minutes later, the flight was again put under the control of the Shanghai Area Control Center.
Wang Kun-chou (王崑州), chief of the CAA’s Air Navigation and Weather Services, yesterday presented satellite charts for between 9am and 11am on Saturday, showing that there was a solid stationary front about 60km to 70km wide in the flight’s path.
Wang said the super cell storm system had a cloud height of 13,700m, while the flight was flying at an altitude of 10,300m. The flight could not have avoided the thunderstorm had it continued on its path.
“Considering the weather, we would advise against taking that risk,” Wang said. “But a pilot can determine if he is able to fly through a storm.”
Sheri Chen (陳華影), deputy director of the Taipei Area Control Center, said the pilot had not requested to land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport instead of Songshan.
Chen said other flights flew through the storm at about the same time, but the planes were different models and slight differences in timing may have meant different weather conditions.
“Based on the transcripts, the pilot sounded normal and was trying to solve the issue of landing,” Chen said.
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