Flight tracking site nearly crashes as almost three million watch plane’s progress
US politician Nancy Pelosi’s controversial journey to Taiwan has become the most watched in flight tracking website FlightRadar24’s history.
An “unprecedented” number of people followed the progress of the Boeing C-40C jet that flew the US Speaker of the House of Representatives to Taipei.
More than 700,000 users around the world tracked the US Air Force jet, which has the call sign SPAR19, upon its landing. It touched down at 10.45pm local time on Tuesday (2 August) after avoiding flying over the South China Sea.
“At the peak, 708,000 people were tracking SPAR19. That sets a new record for live tracking,” Ian Petchenik, Flightradar24’s director of communications, told FOX Business on Tuesday.
Almost three million people in total followed at least a portion of Ms Pelosi’s seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Taipei.
Flightradar24 said the “unprecedented, sustained interest” in the flight almost made the website crash.
It added: “Our teams immediately began efforts to maintain the stability of our services.
“Unfortunately, due to the volume of users, it was necessary to deploy our waiting room functionality, which meters access to Flightradar24 for non-subscribers.
“Shortly after SPAR19 landed, normal access for all users was restored quickly. We continue to make improvements to our systems to provide additional capacity for flights of extreme interest.”
Ms Pelosi’s controversial visit intensified tensions between Washington DC and Beijing. The US politician had been warned against making the trip, as China considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory.
China has threatened military retaliation over moves by the island to solidify its de facto independence with support of allies, such as the US.
After Ms Pelosi landed in Taipei for the one-day visit, China launched military exercises in the region – including live-fire drills in Taiwan’s territorial waters and air defence identification zone.
Ms Pelosi was the highest-ranking US elected official to go to the island in 25 years.
On Thursday, China said it conducted “precision missile strikes” in the Taiwan Strait – a 100-mile wide stretch of water separating the island from the mainland.
Taiwan’s defence ministry condemned the action, saying that China launched a total of 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into waters near the island’s northern, southern and eastern coasts.
Taiwan cancelled at least 40 flights to and from Taoyuan Airport on Thursday, but said the cancellations were “not necessarily” related to the military drills.
Some flights to mainland China would go via Hong Kong, Taiwan’s transport minister Wang Kwo-tsai told a press conference on Wednesday.