Air travel in some of eastern China's busiest airports has slowed to a crawl over the past week or so, stranding thousands of travelers and igniting debate about the increasing competition between military and civilian flights for the country's airspace.
On Tuesday, civil aviation authorities warned that air traffic capacity in Shanghai would be reduced by 75 percent. The explanation was that "other users" — later identified as China's military — were using the airspace.
While recent delays have been particularly bad, pressures have been building over the past few years, leading to a number of "airport rage" melees between infuriated passengers and airline and airport staff. In one incident that went viral in 2013, a mining company executive had a meltdown after he and his family missed a flight at Kunming Changshui International Airport:
Apparently stung by a wave of domestic criticism and foreign scrutiny, China's military points out that other factors — including poor airline management and stormy summer weather — are also to blame for recent delays.
The military notes that it has sent staff to regional airports to help manage traffic and arrange alternative routes and is doing its best to reduce its disruption of civil aviation.
China's military controls as much as 80 percent of the country's airspace, at a time when the country's civil aviation has been growing at a double-digit clip for several years. At peak travel season, Chinese airports are stretched to capacity. And as the military points out, civil aviation in China has a poor record of efficiency even when the military is not on major maneuvers.
A 2013 report by FlightStats ranked Beijing and Shanghai's main international airports at the bottom of a list of 35 major international airports, with 80 percent of Beijing's flights delayed.
Wang Ya'nan, deputy chief editor of the Beijing-based Aviation Knowledge Magazine, says in an interview that better civilian air traffic management is needed, for example, to put more flights on the same routes, though at different altitudes.
But, he says, the main problem is that China's airspace is divided into separate civil and military zones. Aside from areas near military bases, Wang argues, "whoever needs the airspace and whoever applies first should get to use it."
Wang adds that there is a general consensus in China about merging airspace. But he says implementation will require better civil-military coordination, and some redeployment of physical air traffic facilities — something he estimates could take about eight or 10 years.
Jason Bentley, KCRW Music Director
After many years of making music, Shelby Lynne won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for her work on the album, I Am Shelby Lynne. This year, she plans on re-releasing that 2000 album along with some B-sides that didn't make the original disc. On a recent visit to Morning Becomes Eclectic, the singer shared those songs, as well as her excitement about putting the record back out into the world.
- "She Knows"
Watch Lynne's entire performance on KCRW.com.
Eric Cantor officially stepped down as House Majority Leader today. He will be replaced in the leadership by Kevin McCarthy of California after losing in a primary for his Virginia congressional seat.
Cantor’s district, Virginia’s 7th congressional, is the focus of this week’s installment of District Profiles, looking at congressional races across the country. Republican candidate David Brat, who defeated Cantor in the primary, will face Democrat Jack Trammell.
Michael Pope of WAMU in Washington, D.C. discusses the race with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
- Michael Pope, reporter for WAMU in Washington D.C., part of the Here & Now Contributors Network. He tweets @MichaelLeePope.
Altruism or good business? Today, Facebook launched a free mobile app in Zambia.
The company says people who can’t afford Internet service in the poor African country will have a new way to find jobs and get health advice on pregnancy and childbirth.
It’s the latest in Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, a larger push to reach millions of potential customers in developing countries.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss Facebook’s goals and what we can expect in the future from the initiative.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released proposed revisions to the Clean Water Act. The agency says the new rule is designed to clarify the protections for the nation’s streams and wetlands.
But, as reporter Chris Lehman of Here & Now contributor Northwest News Network discovered, some farmers believe the new rule would subject them to unnecessary and costly changes.
- Read more on this story via Northwest News Network
- Watch a parody video by the Missouri Farm Bureau, protesting the proposal