Planner John Chinn Mok's job is to look at the big picture, a broad view that takes in both the new international airport and the current - and future - airports of the Pearl River Delta region. The American-born executive's professional brief as head of strategic planning for the Airport Authority is to survey the likely airport needs of Hong Kong and its immediate mainland neighbours, then recommend an appropriate long-term plan of action. He is already studying when Chek Lap Kok is likely to reach its capacity of almost 90 million passengers a year - an event that could happen before the middle of the next century. Mr Mok said the lack of space for an additional airport in Hong Kong would force greater co-operation with southern Chinese airports, which in turn would take the overspill, or new traffic. 'I don't think anyone would dare say the economic vitality will be fully satisfied by a single airport in Hong Kong,' he said. 'In time, each of these economic centres will generate the demand and traffic that will warrant their respective airports. 'You have to recognise that we will reach capacity at CLK. I see what we have got now, what's next when CLK reaches the situation Kai Tak is today? 'We won't build another airport in Hong Kong. When you look at where you will end up and work your way back to where you are, it gives you a very clear pattern of how you should build your business.' Mr Mok, who was previously with the Port Authority of New York, said the new airport project had been built at a rate that could not be paralleled anywhere else. 'Can you put up an airport of this magnitude anywhere else? Maybe, but I doubt you could put it up any faster. The most challenging aspect of the project for me was to try to ensure that, in our haste to get the job done and the airport opened, the long-term possibilities are not lost,' he said. While most airlines may be relieved at being freed from the space, slot and curfew restrictions of Kai Tak, the planner is more concerned with possible overloading at Chek Lap Kok, even though it will be many decades from now. Much will hinge on how soon the region recovers from its financial malaise and how quickly mainland China picks up its rapid stride towards economic superpower status. Hong Kong's continued vitality and traffic demand will have to rely on adjacent airports such as Shenzhen, Macau and Zhuhai. 'For Hong Kong's own requirements in the long term, you need a complementary airport system. You don't think of neighbouring airports as competitors but as friends. You can build a new airport but it's like the Field of Dreams, if you don't have the highways, the aircraft are not going to show up because the passengers can't get to the airport,' he said. 'There's an overall period of what I call infrastructure maturity.' As the aviation infrastructure in and around southern China developed, as it had with Zhuhai, Macau, Shenzhen and the planned new Guangzhou airport, Mr Mok said there would also be the need for the access infrastructure to evolve and mature. 'We are seeing that with superhighways built and planned, and cross-estuary bridges. All this comprehensive network will connect the whole Pearl River Delta. It will facilitate movement from anywhere within the region to any airport so, ultimately, we will see a rationalised regional system where the airports are all operating in a complementary manner,' he said. 'In time, the PRC network of road systems will be excellent. We will have the road and rail links developed to a degree that they will allow all the airports to realise their potential. It will develop the demand that will warrant the airports. 'No one ever asked New York, Paris or London if they have too many airports. There are just so many needed.'