New HK$3.2b centre to cope with growth in air traffic

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am

A HK$3.2 billion air traffic control centre using state-of-the-art technology is to be built to manage the rapid rise in air traffic in the Pearl River Delta.

The many airports in the delta and robust growth of air traffic had congested the airspace, greatly affecting air-traffic management, Civil Aviation Department director-general Norman Lo Shung-man said. The recent rise in budget airlines such as Oasis also had contributed to the problem.

Airport Authority figures show the number of aircraft movements in Hong Kong has grown 72 per cent since 1998 to 280,000 last year, almost 40 per cent more than the 202,000 movements forecast for 2005 by the New Airport Master Plan in 1991.

The master plan also predicted that by 2025, aircraft movements would increase to 490,000, with an average of about 1,300 movements daily.

'The system we are using will reach the end of its usable life by 2012, while other places are migrating to more up-to-date systems,' Mr Lo said.

He said the existing system could not support more up-to-date functions such as the automatic display of essential flight data for controllers, analysis of traffic situations and calculations for the optimal arrival sequence and landing times of aircraft.

This would prevent the department from communicating efficiently with agencies in other places such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, where new systems would soon be installed.

The department has reserved a site at southeastern Airport Island, north of the Dragonair Building, for the new centre, which will accommodate all department staff, who are now working at four locations at the airport and in Admiralty.

The new system is expected to begin operations in 2012 and should be able to cope until 2025, based on the 1991 air-traffic estimates. Twenty more controllers will be employed to operate the new system, for which the department will seek funding approval in May.

A member of Legco's economic services panel, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, said he was surprised to hear the existing system would be obsolete so soon after the airport opened in 1998.

Mr Lo said the department had previously reserved 25 per cent more space for expansion of the control centre but 'air traffic has grown beyond our prediction'.

The new system would require three times the space of the existing control centre.