Airport curfew a mockery
THERE are limits to the capacity of Kai Tak Airport. But there are also limits to the tolerance of people who live near it.
The Government's attempt to extend operating hours at Kai Tak, so soon after increasing the number of flights permitted in the early morning and late evening, is testimony to the territory's economic expansion and the growth of international traffic. Butit would be an unacceptable intrusion into the lives of the 250,000 people living in the flight-path.
Any extension of the curfew should be considered only after proper public consultation. It must not be nodded through in back-door deals with sympathetic members of the district boards.
The best answer to the problem of aircraft noise over Kowloon is the speedy completion of Chek Lap Kok. Meanwhile, one possible, if risky, alternative would be temporarily to divert more China flights to Shenzhen. Hong Kong could even consider sending some international flights to Macau once the Taipa airport opens next year - despite the danger of losing some business permanently as transport links with the enclave are improved to cope with the extra traffic.
But if all the extra flights are to land in Hong Kong, a balance must be struck, while we wait for the new airport, between the needs of residents and unbridled expansion.
There will be little support among the residents of Kowloon City and Shamshuipo for adding yet more flights in the evening and early morning, even if the Government set stricter engine-noise limits for flights after dark. But if the alternative is to extend regular operations to 1 am, an hour later than the present curfew, it might be the better option. The curfew is short and flexible enough as it is. Cutting it to 51/2 hours as is now proposed - in return for a mere two hours of complete silence between3 am and 5 am - guarantees nobody a decent night's sleep. It makes a mockery of having a curfew at all.