THE new chief executive of the Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) said Hongkong people were aware of the need for a new airport. ''There is a basic awareness in the community that there is a legitimate need for the new airport, for business and commercial reasons,'' airport chief Dr Hank Townsend said. ''Hopefully, the full support of the community, government and the Chinese [side] will be forthcoming before much longer,'' he added. In the first interview since taking over the PAA on February 19 after the surprise removal of Mr Richard Allen by the PAA board of directors, Dr Townsend said there was a big difference between his new job and his former role as consultant project manager at NAPCO. ''At NAPCO, it was an integrated effort with the Hongkong Government. Our role was working in collaboration on a macro level with the Airport Core Programme,'' he said. ''At the PAA, there is more of a hands-on responsibility.'' Dr Townsend said there were several priorities which needed close attention to ensure the new airport was successful. He said the first priority was to recognise that the significant amount of planning and work already accomplished served as the foundation of the PAA's ongoing activities. The second priority was the continuation of a committed organisation which did its best for the new airport and Hongkong generally. Thirdly, Dr Townsend said, was the maintenance and smooth running of the large, ongoing projects, such as the $9-billion site preparation contract. The contract, being carried out by the Airport Platform Contractors Joint Venture, was ahead of schedule, he said. The the design of the main terminal, being carried out by the Mott Consortium, was well advanced. Dr Townsend said there was an ongoing effort to finalise the Airport Authority Bill, the Financial Support Agreement, and the land grant for the airport island. He said this was being done in close co-operation with the Government. The Airport Authority Bill, when enacted by the Legislative Council, would make the PAA a fully fledged statutory corporation, similar to the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. Responding to questions about how air cargo and other airport business would be handled at Chek Lap Kok, Dr Townsend said the PAA was examining the issues involved. He added there were other considerations, such as planning facilities and allocating franchises necessary for the operation of the new airport. ''As important as the safety and maintenance considerations for the new airport, is an understanding of the financial operation of the existing airport as we transfer those ideas and apply them to Chek Lap Kok,'' he said. In addition to the construction programme and commercial transfer, the PAA was also working with other Government departments, such as the Civil Aviation Department, to orchestrate the move from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok. ''The programme agreed on by the Government and the PAA was for a multi-step process which would proceed on a parallel,'' said Dr Townsend. ''We have a management plan to co-ordinate activities between the Civil Aviation Department and other departments with the Airport Authority to ensure the smooth transition of Kai Tak operations to Chek Lap Kok. ''The other parallel is the drafting of an aerodrome manual which will cover safety aspects and it has had maximum input from the Civil Aviation Department. ''It is intended that a number of Civil Aviation Department staff will eventually be employed by the Airport Authority.'' Dr Townsend said the transfer of employees had been discussed in detail with the Government and plans had been made. ''We are waiting for the opportunity to begin the process, although no deadline has been established yet,'' he said.