• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 12:04pm

Safety fears as Chinese airports order planes to take off regardless

Flights may leave on time, but planes may circle for hours awaiting landing slots at destinations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:32am

Eight major mainland airports are trying to reduce flight delays by ordering commercial planes to take off on time - even if they have no landing slot at their destination.

The drastic move, ordered by aviation authorities, could lead to planes having to circle airports for hours waiting for clearance to land and has been slammed as unsafe and impractical.

Waiting on the ground is always safer than waiting in the air

Yang Xinsheng, dean of the College of Air Traffic Management at the Civil Aviation University of China, said it was "ridiculous" and added: "Waiting on the ground is always safer than waiting in the air."

The measure was implemented last week after mainland airports were found to be among the worst in the world for delayed departures and arrivals.

The measure - termed "unrestricted take-off" - took effect at Beijing Capital, Shanghai Hongqiao, Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou Baiyun, Shenzhen Baoan, Chengdu Shuangliu, Xian Xianyang and Kunming Changshui airports.

Together they account for half the mainland's air traffic.

The Beijing News said the measure had "effectively improved" performance. It said Beijing Capital International Airport increased its rate of on-time departures by 15 to 20 per cent.

But experts and members of the public remained sceptical.

Yang said that if planes were allowed to take off without securing a landing slot at the destination first, they could end up circling in the air for hours.

Caught on camera: Air rage incidents from around China

Airlines will also have to pay much more for fuel. The extra flying hours could also add to the stress and pressure on air crews.

"I don't think passengers would want this either. Taking off on time may reduce anger, but circling around the airport could induce panic," he said.

An aviation expert based in Hong Kong, who asked not to be named, said it was a common practice at many big international airports to ask planes to circle before getting landing clearance.

But he said: "This puts great pressure on air traffic control - and the mainland's [civilian] air traffic control is not among the best.

"They also have to deal with heavy interference from the military, so there could be safety concerns. This could well be an experiment by the government to squeeze efficiency.

"They may want to push the limits to test what traffic controls are necessary and what could be relaxed to reduce delays," he said.

Previously, the central government told China News Services that 42.3 per cent of flight delays were caused by airline management problems.

Another 26.1 per cent were caused by air traffic control, 20.9 per cent by the weather and 7 per cent by military exercises.



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

This might be an accident waiting to happen. If the arrival airport can't handle the incoming traffic, there will be plane(s) which will eventually be really low on fuel circling around.
Its really pathetic how short sighted and selfish they are. Address the core problem!
aviation authorities are trying to cover the butts.. it's impt to them because of the grease $$$.. in the rest of the world it's unthinkable!!!
These so called aviation authorities are real idiots. What is the point of having airplanes in staggered holding pattern so that their own metrics and does not do anything in real practice. Stupid confucius thinking MFSOBs
I guess the experiment will stop when several mid-air collisions take place. The ATC will not be experienced enough to handle a sudden overload of planes circling over an airport. Some circles will have multiple planes and some will crash into each other raining planes, fuel and bodies onto the cities. But, the vice director of airport on-time performance will get his annual bonus.
This is one of the self-checking mechanisms by which China cannot surpass the civilized societies of the world. The Commies always look for a simple solution without doing the hard work to resolve problems. If I was XJP, I'd order whoever came up with this scheme given death +2 years.
Yeah, they should string up these so called aviation authorities officials who comes up with these cover your **** and pass the buck to someone else ideas!!!!
if you can't solve it, make it someone else's problem. Remind me not to take the plane in the next months.
Give the Chinese numbers on anything and they will find a way to misuse them. GDP, pollution, education, anything.
I am not worried about destinations like HK where we have experienced ATC personnel but all this does is push the real problem - incompetent Chinese ATC - downstream. The mainland Chinese just don't get it.
2 things on China's numbers:
1. They misuse them madly like in this case
2. They are totally wrong
Have HK CAD been asked to comment on this???
Fortunately I don't have any plan to fly to mainland in near future, or I may be involved in a fight with angry passengers and plane crew members up in the air.


SCMP.com Account