TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A U.S. Navy transport jet was sighted flying directly over Taiwan on Tuesday morning (June 9) and was last spotted flying towards Taiwan's Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands) in the South China Sea.
Aircraft spotting sites AirNav RadarBox and planefinder, in addition to Twitter user Golf9, spotted a U.S. Navy Boeing C-40a Clipper taking off from Okinawa, likely Kadena Air Base, at 8:53 a.m. Tuesday morning. The plane, which has the call number CNV7642, appeared to fly directly over northern Taiwan, turning south to flying along the island's west coast.
The plane's flight path took it over Keelung, New Taipei, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, and Chiayi before exiting over Tainan and heading toward the open sea, according to AirNav RadarBox.
The jet was last spotted flying toward Taiwan's Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands) in the northern part of the South China Sea. When Golf9 spotted the jet, he wrote that its route directly over Taiwan's west coast was a "rare flight course."
Route of CNV7642 reported by AirNav RadarBox. (AirNav RadarBox screenshot)
U.S. military jets very rarely fly over Taiwan's airspace, preferring instead to fly in international waters around the island. The C-40a is the Navy version of the Boeing 737-700 and is designed to carry high-priority passengers or cargo, according to the manufacturer's website.
The flight occurs at a time of rising tensions between China and the U.S. over sanctions imposed in retaliation for a draconian security law passed in Hong Kong. The escalating confrontation is also occurring on a number of other fronts such as the trade war, China's poor handling of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the South China Sea, and new restrictions on Chinese journalists and graduate students in the U.S.
Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) released a statement in which he said that the nation's military has full control over the airspace over Taiwan and that the current situation is normal. However, Shih did not confirm or deny the flight by the Navy jet.
Route of CNV7642 reported by planefinder. (planefinder screenshot)
USN C-40A Clipper. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
CNV7642(C-40A 169036) is flying over West coast line of Taiwan.— Golf9 (@KimagureGolf9) June 9, 2020
It's a rare flight course... pic.twitter.com/9dUWDnFOe4
Update: 06/09 11:42 a.m.
China Times cited a source familiar with the matter as saying that the plane had requested an emergency landing due to problems with "malfunctioning landing gear." The person claimed that the jet was carrying "high-ranking U.S. officials" and landed at the Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taichung before taking off again a mere five minutes later.
However, other local Taiwanese media outlets described the landing as an unverified rumor. The MND has not confirmed such a landing took place and the Liberty Times cited Taichung Airport officials as saying that they had not received a distress call.
Update: 06/10 2:30 p.m.
Golf9 reports that the plane was spotted flying over Vietnam and Cambodia before approaching U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in Thailand.
Flightpath reported by Golf9. (Twitter, @KimagureGolf9 image)
Last known location reported by Golf9. (Twitter, @KimagureGolf9 image)