TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A military chartered UNI Air flight has landed in Taiwan’s Dongsha Islands (東沙群島, Pratas Islands) after taking off from Kaohsiung early Monday morning (Oct. 26).
Lai Yu-chie (賴育杰), a Coast Guard Administration (CGA) Ocean Affairs Council official, told a CNA reporter that the chartered flight took off at 8:35 a.m. from Kaohsiung International Airport and arrived in the islands at 9:44 a.m. The flight was carrying goods and supplies for military personnel stationed on the islands and would transport officers and soldiers vacationing there back to Taiwan proper.
The UNI Air ATR72-600 aircraft later returned to Kaohsiung at 11:35 a.m.
The CGA official did not specify how many passengers were on the outbound and return flights but stated that the aircraft’s maximum capacity was 70 people. He added that because the flight had been postponed on Oct. 22 due to weather-related issues, the flight’s crew and passengers Monday morning were cautious but calm.
UNI Air, a sister airline of EVA Air, runs roundtrip flights chartered by the military between Kaohsiung and the Dongsha Islands every Thursday, with each leg lasting 70 minutes.
On Oct. 15, a UNI Air charter flight flying from Kaohsiung to the Dongsha Islands was approaching Hong Kong’s flight information region (FIR) when Hong Kong air traffic controllers told the Taiwanese captain there were “dangerous activities” happening below 26,000 feet and the aircraft could not enter, forcing the aircraft to turn back out of safety concerns, according to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration.
On Oct. 20, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Li Ting-sheng (李廷盛), accompanied by a Coast Guard officer, visited the Dongsha Islands. He inspected the living facilities of the military personnel stationed there and shared some words of encouragement.
Monday’s chartered flight has assuaged concerns of whether Taiwan can continue sending supplies and personnel to the islands unimpeded.