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Hong Kong aviation

Hong Kong air traffic control system to get glowing review in report, source says

Civil Aviation Department will not comment until findings are released on technology which saw teething launch problems last year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 12:24am

The manufacturer of Hong Kong’s controversial new air traffic management system (ATMS) is set to receive a glowing review in a report by a panel of expert ­analysts, according to a source.

The Civil Aviation Department’s report is due to be released in the coming weeks and has ­concluded Raytheon is a “competent” company, and it has “ironed out the majority of the bugs” in the HK$1.56 billion system.

Since the Raytheon Auto Trac III system was commissioned in November, it has been plagued by glitches – from aircraft disappearing from radar to the duplication of flight symbols on screens.

The problems have even ­overwhelmed the radar system, causing flight disruptions.

The expert panel of engineering, air traffic and civil aviation experts, was formed last November to investigate the issue and assess the regulator’s capability to handle the new flight technology.

“The interim report will say that Raytheon is a competent company,” the source said.

The overall performance of the system was “better than required international performance standards”, the source said.

In a review of the hardware, the panel heard that no irregularities were found in the supply of the equipment and it was “the best available ... at the time”.

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On the software side, the source said engineers had “ironed out the majority of the bugs”.

Air traffic controllers, engineers, labour unions and management pilots of all four local airlines did not indicate concerns or worries about the system, the source said.

The Civil Aviation Department declined to comment.

“Once the report has been finalised and published, the department will study its content and follow up on the recommendations ... with a view to further optimise the new ATMS,” a spokeswoman said.

Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a leading critic of the new system, said the report’s ruling would be “no surprise”, and expressed scepticism about how transparent its findings would be.

Hong Kong Air Traffic Control Association president Tommy Auyeung said his colleagues were “more confident” with the new system and he hoped the department would improve the platform based on controller feedback.

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon reiterated confidence that the airline regulator would “enhance” the operational efficiency of the new system.

Raytheon did not respond to requests for comment.

Next week, the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee will head to the regulator’s headquarters to observe the new air traffic management facilities. The committee had previously found that delays to the commissioning of the system were “appalling and unacceptable”, given the risk to safety and the city’s regional status as an aviation hub.