Most of the noise surrounding the new airport last year was generated not by jet engines but by debate over an opening date, landing fees and other issues. The first plane did touch down smoothly on Chek Lap Kok's new runway and all airport projects have been hives of activity with buildings completed, bridges opened and tenders awarded, but the thirst for knowledge of the timing of the red letter day has gone unquenched. It was originally planned that operations would shift from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok last year, but the date was pushed back to sometime in April this year. Early last year the International Air Transport Association raised tourism fears, claiming higher fees imposed on airlines could cost Hong Kong a million passengers a year. The Airport Authority countered that the new airport offered extra features which would help increase rather than erode airlines' bottom lines. Financial Secretary Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was the first passenger to land at Chek Lap Kok on February 20 when a Government Service twin-engine Super King Air plane made the historic - and smooth - touchdown. More test flights have taken place since then to check the programming of the new navigation systems which will help to guide aeroplanes safely in to land, whatever the weather at Chek Lap Kok. The public did not get the chance for a close look at the largest construction project in Hong Kong's history until the summer. Then, when the Lantau Link, including the Tsing Ma and Kap Shui Mun bridges, opened, the Home Affairs branch laid on trips for the curious to see the developments first hand. The main passenger terminal is complete, with its rows of check-in desks, and outside the southern runway, taxiways and gates are clearly visible. So, too, is the second, northern runway and the extension to the passenger terminal which will allow a mass expansion of Chek Lap Kok's capacity when finished. However, the Mass Transit Railway, which is expected to carry the vast majority of passengers to the new airport, will not open its line and pre-check- in services until June. This leaves question marks over the intervening period and how passengers will cope using road transport. Cargo is another problem with, at most, only half of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals SuperTerminal being able to open in April. In the early stages this will mean less throughput than was possible at Kai Tak. And while the landing fee debate may be over, only time will tell if Chek Lap Kok will become the glittering Asian hub so many people hope.