Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan: US Air Force plane becomes most tracked flight ever

The US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night, in a move which is seen as a major blow to China’s geopolitical aspirations. In doing so, she becomes the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island that is claimed by China in 25 years. As Pelosi arrived in Taiwan from Kuala Lumpur, her flight bearing registration SPAR19 became the most-tracked aircraft in the world. Pelosi’s visit has triggered increased tensions between China and the United States as the Asian military might claim Taiwan as part of its territory, to be annexed by force if necessary, and views visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

China had warned of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip. The SPAR19 is a US Air Force jet that took off from Kuala Lumpur for Taiwan, supposedly carrying Nancy Pelosi. As per the flight tracking website FlightRadar24, more internet users tracked the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s flight than any other aircraft in the history of the website.

Almost 300,000 users are following every move of “SPAR19,” a US Air Force-operated Boeing C-40C, according to FlightRadar24. While there was no official confirmation that Pelosi was on the plane, she landed in Taiwan earlier, confirming that she was infact travelling in the SPAR19, which landed in the Taiwan at 10.44 PM.

The SPAR19 flight took off from Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport at approximately 3.40 PM and headed east toward Borneo island, flying close to the Indonesian city of Manado before taking a turn north to the Philippines — steering clear of the South China Sea.

The top 10 most-tracked flights in the world were going to Taiwan, according to FlightRadar24 data. The second most-tracked plane on Tuesday after SPAR19 was a China Airlines flight from Jakarta to Taipei, with almost 20,000 followers.

FlightRadar24, a popular aircraft-tracking website, normally has several thousand users following aircraft of interest — including emergency incidents or inaugural flights. Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for FlightRadar24, said the US Air Force jet was among the site’s five most-tracked planes ever.

Ahead of SPAR19, the top flight tracked was a commercial flight carrying Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who was travelling after undergoing treatment following a suspected poisoning attempt on his life.

With Reuters inputs

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