More room to manoeuvre at airport

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2012, 12:00am

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A HK$2.2 billion project to create 16 new parking spots for planes in the next two years was intended to take advantage of a rebound in the global economy, the Airport Authority said at the launch of the development yesterday.

The authority's announcement of the new 436,000 square metre parking apron at the western end of the airport comes less than three months after it broke ground on its HK$9 billion midfield expansion scheme. Together, the projects will add 36 more parking spaces to the 145 already at Chek Lap Kok, allowing the airport to handle more passenger and cargo flights.

Most of the parking slots on the western apron, the first nine of which will be ready next year, will handle cargo planes, although they will be available to passenger and business planes as well.

Private jet operators have complained of congestion at the Business Aviation Centre. The remaining spaces will open in 2014.

Volumes at the world's busiest airport for cargo were down 4.6 per cent last year to 3.9 million tonnes, but the authority's deputy director of airport operations, Ng Chi-kee, was optimistic about the future.

'The pace of decline of the cargo volume started to slow down in the last quarter, and we expect it to pick up more quickly in the next few years,' he said.

'It takes 18 to 20 months to build a new apron, so it's necessary to start construction as soon as possible to prepare for the rebound of the global economy.'

The west apron will also be designed to accommodate aircraft with longer fuselages, such as the latest generation of the Boeing 747 freighter, the B747-8F.

Ng said the development would help handle the increase in traffic as the Civil Aviation Department raised the capacity of the two runways from 62 flights an hour to 68 by 2015. Passenger and cargo numbers had already outstripped the authority's growth projections, Ng said.

But he said the new development had nothing to do with the controversial plan to build a third runway at Chep Lap Kok as air traffic was expected to increase regardless.

'The west apron development is necessary to provide sufficient parking stands for both passenger flights and cargo flights,' he said.

The HK$9 billion midfield expansion, to be built between the two runways, will see the construction of a new taxiway, 20 parking spaces and a new concourse by 2015, boosting the airport's handling capacity to 70 million passengers and six million tonnes of cargo per year.

Space between the midfield and west apron expansion areas will be retained to support future expansion, which will depend on approval for the third runway.

The government is expected to give a decision on the HK$136.2 billion runway before its term of office ends in June.

The airport handles 920 planes a day, 15 per cent being cargo flights.