Earlier today, United States Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made the first visit by a top United States official to Taiwan since 1997. Because of rising tensions and China threatening the US, Pelosi’s flight became the most tracked flight of all time on FlightRadar24.com, causing the app to crash.
The aircraft carrying Nancy Pelosi was a modified Boeing 737, now called Boeing C-40C. SPAR19 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 15:42 local time. From the aircraft’s departure, it was already the most tracked live flight on Flightradar24. Throughout the flight to Taipei, the number of users tracking the flight increased significantly, hitting 708,000 people simultaneously. By the time the flight landed in Taipei, almost 3 million people had tracked the flight at some point over the seven hours from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei.
Impact on FlightRadar24 service
The significant traffic on FlightRadar24.com led to technical problems on its platform. The following statement was released by FlightRadar24:
“An unprecedented, sustained interest in this particular flight led to extremely heavy load on Flightradar24 infrastructure. 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.”
This morning, I opened the FlightRadar24.com app, and although I am a gold subscriber, I could not track any flights. The map would load on the app, but no aircraft appeared. Free users of the app experienced a different problem. Those without a paid subscription were placed in a waiting room, and the wait time surpassed 2,000 minutes. Aviation photographer Daniel Mena from Washington D.C. posted on his Instagram account that his wait time was 2,339 minutes.
Why people were tracking SPAR19
SPAR19 was a significant flight in world history, marking the highest-level United States visit to Taiwan in 25 years. Tensions had been rising between the US and China for quite some time over the planned visit by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. China condemned Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, threatening military action against the United States, seeing the visit as a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Straight.
Throughout the flight, there were rumors that the Chinese military had dispatched fighter jets flying over the Taiwan Straight. Throughout the day, a significant amount of Chinese military movement in cities facing Taiwan. Footage shows tanks being moved and even an intercontinental ballistic missile on the streets of Fujian. Later in the day, Taiwan’s ministry of defense announced that 21 Chinese aircraft had entered the Taiwanese air defense identification zone and then turned back towards China. The Chinese military also announced that it would be conducting live-fire drills in six locations around the nation of Taiwan.