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Small aircraft warned after paragliding scare

SHANGHAI'S military aviation control authority and police warned yesterday that all small aircraft should get approval before taking off after several paragliders were operating without authorization, which affected commercial flights at the city's two airports. The airforce based in Shanghai said yesterday that nine people and three paragliders had disturbed 39 flights in the city on Thursday. The military alerted police after detecting the unauthorized activity at 10:38am around the bay area of suburban Fengxian District. Zhong Weihong, a military official, said that the people operating the paragliders had not "applied for permission nor reported in advance." "The flying severely affected flights at Shanghai's two airports," Zhong said. Police seized the paragliders and said the operators would be punished, without elaborating. It was not immediately known whether the people had acquired flying licenses for paragliders. With a boom in civilian aircraft activities, such incidents are on the rise, said the authorities. Air traffic control to prevent crashes and other accidents has became more urgent as the air force has agreed to open the low altitude space gradually to encourage private planes and commercial flights. Xiang Jijie, chief of staff with the airforce in Shanghai, said: "Small aircraft moving at slow speeds and at low altitudes are a great danger, especially when they are near airports where commercial planes are about to take off and land." Also on Thursday, a flight that was scheduled to land in Jiangsu Province's Nantong airport was diverted to Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai after a powered parachute flew above the airport for hours. No one was detained or punished for the incident, according to reports. People who fail to get approval for small aircraft flights can be fined up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,800). Those causing serious consequences face even harsher penalties, according to existing aviation regulations.

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