Missile drills in the South China Sea and aeronautical limitations were the reasons a Taiwanese aircraft was denied entry into Hong Kong airspace en route to the Pratas Islands last week, according to a military insider.
“The People’s Liberation Army [PLA] was conducting an air-to-air missile exercise in the South China Sea in the morning [on Thursday] when the Taiwanese aircraft was heading to the Dongsha Islands,” a Beijing-based military source close to the PLA said, using the Chinese name for the group of three atolls.
The UNI Air flight carrying military and coastguard personnel was forced to turn back when Hong Kong’s civil aviation authorities told their counterparts in Taipei there were “dangerous activities” taking place below 26,000 feet.
“Most passenger airliners fly above 26,000 feet,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. “But the Taiwanese aircraft was a propeller-powered ATR 72 that can’t climb that high.”
According to aircraft websites, the ATR 72 has a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet.