An aircraft handmade by Hong Kong students will be ready to take to the skies in a year, but the government's refusal to inspect it and to issue a permit means it may be grounded indefinitely.
The two-seater plane, now in its final stage of assembly in a classroom at St Paul's Convent School, is a collaborative effort between Cathay Pacific pilot Hank Cheng Chor-hang and students over four years.
Cheng, a Hongkonger educated in the US, said he contacted the Civil Aviation Department before he bought the HK$1.4 million kit from the US in 2008.
But the government's stance was not clear until a stern refusal to inspect the plane in May.
The department cited busy traffic at Hong Kong International Airport as a reason for declining Cheng's request.
But he said: "We just need to leave and land in the airport. For the rest of the time, we'll be out in the air. I can't see why we can't test-fly," he said. A plane needs to go through 25 hours of test-flying before it is considered safe.
The team could skip the red tape by shipping the plane elsewhere for registration and then returning it to Hong Kong, but Cheng is reluctant to do so.
"It's Hong Kong's responsibility to certify a plane that is made here," he said.
Other air fields in Hong Kong are unsuitable for the test flight, including Shek Kong because of nearby residential buildings.
The department confirmed it received Cheng's application to register the plane and for a "permit to fly", but said the airport was too busy. "The [airport] is not a suitable location ... and hence there is no point in conducting any inspections on the aircraft," said a spokeswoman.