Record 1,100 flights daily at Hong Kong airport over holidays shows new system works, officials claim
Civil Aviation Department reports increases in take-offs, landings and overflights compared with previous Christmas and New Year’s period
The daily average number of flights taking off, flying over and landing at Hong Kong International Airport during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays both increased compared with the previous year, aviation authorities said.
The Civil Aviation Department said the total number of flights handled by the new system set a record for the period, claiming the new yet glitch-prone air traffic control system was capable of handling peak air traffic.
It also expected a smooth performance during the coming Lunar New Year holiday.
Between December 23 and January 2, there was a daily average of 1,142 flights taking off and landing at the airport – about 1 per cent higher than the same period in 2015-16.
A daily average of 838 flights flew over the airport, a 13 per cent uptick from the same period in 2015-16.
“The new [system] has been fully commissioned for more than a month and has experienced different weather conditions and modes of operation,” a department spokesman said. “The air traffic movements have been generally smooth during the first peak traffic flow ... the [system] has effectively managed the peak traffic.”
The HK$1.56 billion system was fully launched in November despite concerns over technical failures and malfunctions during its months of testing. Just a day after the launch, a flight disappeared off a radar screen for 12 seconds.
In the same month, flights departing the airport were halted for 15 minutes after the system failed to display flight details for 26 seconds.
Questions have arisen over whether the department’s implementation of an air traffic flow control measure – potentially able to reduce the number of aircraft entering airspace during a specific period of time – played a role in the system’s unreliable performance.
The spokesman said the measure was meant to ensure safe and orderly air traffic operations as needed and during the coming Lunar New Year holiday, which was expected to be another peak period.
“Implementation of flow control is not related to the performance of the [system],” he said.
The measure was only applicable to overflights, he added, and would not affect take-offs or landings, thus minimising its impact on travellers or visitors.
The control system can handle 8,000 flight plans per day and simultaneously monitor 1,500 air or ground targets – five times and one and a half times the original system’s capability, respectively.