Hong Kong International Airport

System that helps organise landings at Hong Kong Airport fails for 20 minutes

The tool had been incorporated into controversial new air traffic control system late last year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2017, 9:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 12:22pm

The system that sequences flights for arrival at Hong Kong’s airport stopped displaying some of the incoming flights for 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon, in what aviation bosses called a “temporary hiccup”.

At about 12.15pm, the arrival manager system, or AMAN, which automatically gives the arrival sequence of flights to help controllers arrange the landing order, only showed some of the inbound flights, the Civil Aviation Department said.

The department said its controllers had had to revert to default spacing between landings, and it went “without a hitch”.

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During the outage, controllers could monitor aircraft on radar screens.

They switched the AMAN to its backup system at 12.35pm and it resumed normally.

The department said safety had not been undermined, and flight movements at the airport were “generally normal.”

The department and the AMAN’s contractor were examining what caused the problems.

An expert panel on the newly installed air traffic control system will also be invited to review its performance.

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The AMAN had been in operation since 2010, and was incorporated into the new overall air traffic control system last year.

The department said the subsystem was not used to keep standard separation between aircraft, and it was not developed by Raytheon, the US-based manufacturer of the new air traffic control system, Auto Trac III.

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The controversial new HK$1.56 billion system has faced a number of problems since going fully operational in November. The department stressed that safety had not been affected despite the issues.

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Pilot turned lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho said the AMAN was not essential, because controllers could still work out arrival flight sequencing manually. But a glitch could disturb flight schedules when traffic is unusually busy, he said.

He said it was the third time the problem with the subsystem had arisen since it was incorporated into the new system.

Tam urged the department to explain whether it was an issue about the compatibility of the AMAN with the new air traffic control system.