'No danger of crash' in near-miss over city
There was no danger of a crash when a Cathay Pacific plane and a Dragonair jet got so close to each other that they could have collided within six seconds, a government report has found.
The incident on September 18 saw the planes, carrying some 600 people, come within one nautical mile of each other as part of the airspace around Chek Lap Kok airport became overloaded in bad weather.
As a result of the overcrowding, an air-traffic controller told both flights to enter the airspace sector at the same altitude, the report, by the Civil Aviation Department's air-traffic-safety assessment committee, found.
'While the air-traffic controller was busy handling priority aircraft-deviation calls and requests for approach due to the bad weather, level change for the two aircraft was not effected in time and the controller had to issue avoid-turn instructions to both aircraft for separation,' the department said.
However, it said no sharp turn was required and the two flight crews had identified each other.
The collision alarms went off in the cockpits of both aircraft, reports at the time said; the Cathay flight from New York descended while the Dragonair flight from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, climbed to put a safe distance between the two jets.
'The report confirmed that there was no danger of collision,' the department said, and operations at the airport had been 'generally manageable'. The full report will not be released, as the near miss is not categorised as an 'accident' or 'serious incident', it said.
The department acknowledged that the inclement weather had led some planes to deviate from their course and had left the airspace known as the terminal west sector overloaded.
The report makes recommendations concerning air-traffic operations, weather forecasting and communication with airlines during inclement weather. The department is working with airlines and the Observatory to implement them.
Cathay Pacific and Dragonair, a subsidiary of Cathay, said they would fully support the recommendations to prevent future incidents.
The Boeing 777-300 from New York was carrying 299 passengers and 18 crew, while the Dragonair Airbus A330 had 284 passengers and 12 crew members on board.
After the incident, an air-traffic-control officer wrote to the South China Morning Post blaming labour shortages for a rising number of near-miss incidents in the city's airspace.