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Maiden Cross-Straits Cargo Flight Tonight
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The first chartered cargo flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will begin this evening.


A Boeing 747-400 cargo plane, operated by Taiwan-based China Airlines, takes off from Taoyuan Airport in Taipei at 10:00 PM tonight and arrives at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai at 1:00 AM Thursday.


The mainland-based Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council and the Taipei Airlines Association agreed on a framework for chartered flights for festivals and special cases on June 14.


The five chartered cargo flights will carry equipment, parts and components to be used in factories on the mainland which are owned by Taiwan businesses.


Chartered flights will run during Qingming, or the tomb-sweeping festival, the Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn Festivals as well as the Chinese lunar New Year season, according to the agreement.


The two sides also agree to open chartered flights for emergency medical purposes, first aid for the disabled alongside the cargo services.  


Air cargo from Taiwan is usually first transported to Hong Kong and carried from that special administrative region by the Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines or the Hong Kong based Dragon Air to Shanghai.


It's believed the operation of chartered cargo flights will help slash transport costs and promote trade and economic cooperation between the two sides across the Taiwan Straits.


Some analysts believe the start of chartered flights for festivals and cargo services could be a big step toward Taiwan lifting a five-decade ban on regular air links across the Straits. Cross-straits chartered flights with stopovers in Hong Kong or Macao began during the Spring Festival of 2003.


(Xinhua News Agency July 19, 2006)


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