Nancy Pelosi’s plane to Taiwan becomes the most tracked flight of all time

The visit of senior US politician Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan may have caused plenty of headlines as it ramped up tensions with China and Washington, but such was the intense interest in her trip that it nearly broke online tracking service Flightradar24.

The website says more than 708,000 users were logged in following the path of the Boeing C-40C jet with the call sign SPAR19, which was carrying the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, making it the most tracked aircraft of all time.

Close to 3 million people followed at least a portion of the seven-hour flight from take-off at Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to landing in Taipei.

While it had been strongly rumoured beforehand that Pelosi would visit Taiwan as part of a tour of Asia, it was not confirmed until she landed in Taipei, leading to Flightradar24 users to follow the aircraft online.

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However, the knock on effect of so much “unprecedented, sustained interest” nearly crashed the website, Flightradar24 said in a blog post.

“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.

The US government plane carrying Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She arrived in Taiwan as part of a tour of Asia.

Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

The US government plane carrying Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She arrived in Taiwan as part of a tour of Asia.

“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.”

Pelosi’s aircraft was tracked avoiding flying over the contested South China Sea. The visit was controversial as Taiwan is claimed by China, and is part of Beijing’s One China policy. China has condemned the visit and has started three days of military exercises in the region, including live-fire drills in Taiwan’s territorial waters and air defence identification zone, reports The Times.

Pelosi was the highest-ranking US elected official to go to the island in 25 years.

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