Hong Kong aviation

Hong Kong’s new air traffic control system overcomes teething pains to handle Lunar New Year surge

Airport staff were able to handle more flight activity than during 2016 festive period

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 11:29pm

Hong Kong’s controversial new air traffic management system (ATMS) appeared during the Lunar New Year travel period to have surmounted its teething pains, with air traffic controllers handling more flights than ever before.

The city’s aviation chief hailed the reliability of the new ATMS, which managed an average of 2,055 daily flight and overflight movements – up 3 per cent from the same period last year, when the old system was used.

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During the holiday period, the HK$1.56 billion system clocked 11 consecutive days of handling more than 2,000 flight movements. The new system is capable of handling up to 8,000 flight movements a day – five times more than its predecessor.

The figures are significant as Hong Kong International Airport prepares for more flights ahead of the third runway expansion. The two existing runways are operating at close to full capacity.

Several notable problems had dogged the Raytheon Auto Trac III system since its introduction in November, resulting in delays and flight disruptions. An expert panel was formed to ensure smooth operation of the system and to assuage doubts about the Civil Aviation Department’s capability of handling the new flight technology.

Simon Li Tin-chui, director general of civil aviation, praised the controllers for their dedication and diligence in providing round-the-clock air traffic services to the public.

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He characterised the air traffic services as “safe, efficient and smooth” amid a surge in air traffic flow within Hong Kong air space.

A department spokeswoman said the record figures were “the best proof of the outstanding performance of the air traffic control staff and the new ATMS in the face of persistently high demand for services”.

The average number of daily take-offs and landings during the festive period reached 1,155.

Meanwhile, the average number of overlights hit 900 over the region, up 8 per cent on last year.

At the end of last year, the airport welcomed 70 million passengers. The milestone capped a two-year span of breakneck growth, as the airport greeted 60 million passengers at the end of 2014.