Doubts grow over Hong Kong's third runway as aviation department abandons plan for an abort path over PLA firing range
Difficulties finding route for aborted landings put third runway in doubt
Further doubts have been cast on the running of Chek Lap Kok airport's proposed third runway, after the Civil Aviation Department said it would abandon a key flight path planned for aborted aircraft landings on the strip.
Routing planes over a firing range used by the People's Liberation Army and police in Castle Peak, Tuen Mun, situated under the proposed missed- approach route, proved too challenging.
The department announced on Monday it had given up on this route - recommended by its British consultants - due to "technical issues".
The Post revealed last month how the firing range posed a hazard to planes and that frequent shooting threatened to reduce the airspace available and limit the number of aircraft that can land.
At present, the airport's two runways can handle 67 planes an hour. A third runway would see that capacity increase to 102.
In a statement, Hong Kong's aviation regulator said: "Since the implementation of this flying procedure poses technological limitations to flight operations, such as on the requirement on the climb gradient, the Civil Aviation Department earlier decided not to adopt this procedure."
A spokeswoman denied the issue was directly related to the firing range but reiterated it would comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation rules.
One of the few alternative flight paths for aborted landings would force planes arriving from Macau to make a sharp U-turn, coming immediately into conflict with planes approaching Shenzhen airport.
Michael Mo Kwan-tai, spokesman for the Airport Development Concern Network, said: "The CAD has taken a huge gamble in assuming the Shenzhen authorities would give way to missed-approach aircraft in order to give maximum capacity to the three-runway system.
"If Shenzhen will not give way, or in any circumstance the Pearl River Delta [airspace] integration plan does not include approval of this U-turn missed approach, the third runway will be screwed up," he added.
Former aviation department chief Albert Lam Kwong-yu said to enter Shenzhen's airspace, the department "must have agreement and consult its authorities".
The sharp U-turn into mainland airspace is the only other flight path offered by the National Air Traffic Service that complies with global aviation laws.
Consultants carved out the "escape route" after assuming airspace would be merged with the Pearl River Delta and that the firing range would be shut down.