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Continental Evacuation Flight Turned Back In Apparent Mixup

June 8, 1989

TOKYO (AP) _ An apparent mixup caused a U.S.-chartered flight to evacuate foreigners from Beijing to be denied permission Thursday to fly over Chinese airspace and turn back, an official at the U.S. Embassy said.

The Continental Airlines DC-10, which left and returned to Naha Airport on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, apparently approached Chinese airspace earlier than agreed upon and was forced to turn back, the official said.

″At 1:20 p.m. (12:20 a.m. EDT) the jet was on the runway preparing to take off again,″ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Haruki Yasuda, Continental Airlines’ general manager in Tokyo, said the reason for the refusal for clearance by Shanghai air controllers was unclear. The embassy spokesman said the jet had been granted permission to fly through, but had arrived six hours too early.

Yasuda said the jet, with a capacity for 284 passengers, was refueled and parked at Naha until the confusion was cleared up.

The U.S. Embassy and Continental planned to have passengers board the plane during a two-hour scheduled stop in Beijing and then proceed to Narita International Airport outside Tokyo.

Continental has agreed to fly shuttle flights to Beijing to assist in the orderly departure of foreign citizens, according to company spokesman Ned Walker.

The airline, which does not have regular service out of Beijing, formed a special operation team to handle the evacuation flights.