The major air freight operator had to rely on media reports to discover the date of the airport's opening, the public hearing was told yesterday. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (HACTL) said it did not have enough time to run full trials of its computers and adjust the pace of building works once it learned the date. HACTL deputy managing director, Yeung Kwok-keung, said the Airport Authority had not responded to the company's repeated requests for a firm date of opening, although HACTL management had read media reports that the opening would be around April this year. The first time HACTL knew of the airport opening date was on January 14 when it received the authority's notice of the date, Mr Yeung said. He told the hearing that not until a firm date had been fixed could HACTL work out an 'acceleration programme' with its building contractors and negotiate extra funding with banks. He blamed the authority for not having a 'fully functional' pre-opening trial operation, as required in the franchise agreement. He said it had prevented HACTL from rectifying possible problems. The unforeseeable breakdown of computers and machinery had pushed HACTL efficiency to 'a near non-existence' level in about nine hours after Chek Lap Kok received its first plane. On July 6, the airport's opening day, the cargo handling machines were hit by 931 interruptions while the dust-damaged computers suffered 8,524 faults. Mr Yeung also said the authority's computers failed to give updated flight information to HACTL computers, forcing cargo handling to a halt. But Robert Ribeiro SC, representing the Airport Authority, challenged Mr Yeung over whether this could be the fault of HACTL computers. Cargo handling was then carried out manually. Attempts to input data to computers manually were completed at about 4am on July 7, but an hour later the data had been removed through human error, originally thought to have been a computer bug. Ambrose Ho, representing the Government, asked why HACTL referred to the breakdown as a 'minor' problem in its public statements in early July. Mr Yeung said it was 'minor' from an engineering viewpoint. The public hearing by the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport entered the third day yesterday.