TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An aviation mystery was reported by a former Taiwanese navy radar operator, Hsu Geng-rui (許耿睿), on Tuesday morning (Aug. 27), when what appeared to be a North Korean military aircraft began emitting a transponder signal just southwest of Taiwan’s Hengchun Peninsula.
The website Plane Finder records a very brief 15 minute blip of a flight identified as PFA9371 in the Bashi Channel which appeared at 8:03 a.m. Tuesday morning. The flight appeared to be on a westward trajectory towards southern China before it turned around and flew back out towards the Pacific Ocean. The aircraft was flying at almost 9,300 meters above sea level and 711 kilometers per hour.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) transponder data recorded the flight code 7270C2 for the aircraft. Although the Plane Finder site currently logs no flight information for the mystery plane, on Tuesday morning it displayed the PFA9731 as a plane registered in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Liberty Times reports that the transponder “squawk” code emitted by the aircraft was 1400, which is typically used by U.S. and NATO aircraft. Curiously, late last week, the same squawk code was used by U.S. anti-submarine aircraft reportedly traveling with the USS Green Bay amphibious transport ship, which traversed the Taiwan Strait from South to North on Aug. 23, according to Liberty Times.
While the brief appearance of the aircraft on public radar, and lack of subsequent tracking information might suggest that a military aircraft was making its presence known to other aircraft or naval assets in the area, the reason why the flight activated its transponder and its identification as a military aircraft both remain conjecture at this time.
The origin of the aircraft also cannot be confirmed as North Korean from available data, it is only speculated based upon initial info provided by Plane Finder. It is also notable that PFA is the airline code for Pacific Flight Services, a company based in Singapore, which provides charter flights for execs and VIPs in the Asia-Pacific region.
Screen grab of flight data