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China conducts test flight on M503 route Sunday

China conducts test flight on M503 route Sunday

China carried out an official test on its M503 flight route near the middle of the Taiwan Strait Sunday as Wu Mei-hong, Vice Chairman and spokesman for the Mainland Affairs Council, (MAC) explained that MAC had been properly informed ahead of time of the development.

Wu said that Chinese officials had also informed them that they would advise MAC of the results of the test including information on the weather, altitudes and other aspects of the flight. She offered her assurance that authorities in Taiwan were fully aware of the status of the flight.

China first announced January 12 that it was designating four new routes in the Taiwan Strait, with the new corridors to go into effect March 5. After strong protests from the Taiwan side that it had not been fully informed of China’s intentions in the matter and the new routes could present problems for aviation in Taiwan, Chinese aviation officials backtracked slightly. They said the main north-south route M503 would be shifted several nautical miles to the west while three shorter routes would temporarily be suspended.

MAC now says that in its last cross-strait communication, on March 2, China agreed to move the M503 route six nautical miles west and limit traffic along the route to southbound flights only. With the adjustment, M503 will approach within 10.2 nautical miles of the mid-line of the strait, and Chinese officials say any further adjustments are out of the question
Wu said China has announced that when the new route is officially implemented it will issue a NOTAM (Notice to Air Man) to all airlines, air traffic control units and various pilot flight information regions concerned to ensure that implementation will be in accordance with mutual agreements currently in effect.

There have already been applications from 16 airlines for use of the M503 corridor route including airlines from the US, Japan, South Korea and other countries that transit the area. After the route is formally inaugurated these 16 airlines are expected to make about 30 flights a day along the route, a far cry from the congested A470 route which lies inland from the southeastern coast of China between Hong Kong and the Shanghai area and sees more than 1200 flights daily.

Some observers have claimed that formal implementation of the new route will actually result in better security for aviation in Taiwan. They argue that since M503 is an international route aircraft from the PLA will not be allowed to use it, in effect adding to the safety of aviation in Taiwan.

Major General David Luo, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said Sunday that Taiwan’s military had been fully apprised of the flight test for route M503 and the ministry was closely following the situation.

Updated : 2021-09-26 15:17 GMT+08:00