The Director of Civil Aviation admitted yesterday that the number of potentially dangerous air traffic control 'incidents' had increased by 30 per cent since the move to Chek Lap Kok airport, but insisted safety had not been compromised. Albert Lam Kwong-yu said busy air traffic in the Pearl River Delta was among the reasons for the increase. The new airport recorded 28 incidents in the first 22 months of operation. Kai Tak airport had 21 in the 22 months before its closure. Of the incidents at the new airport, 15 were caused by 'inappropriate' orders from controllers. There were 13 'loss of standard separation' incidents, meaning aircraft were closer than permitted by international standards. That was almost 45 per cent higher than the Kai Tak figure. Mr Lam said: 'The figure is indeed slightly higher, but given the new environment and a more complicated operation, it's not too bad.' The Legco economic services panel heard that the worst case involved two aircraft that were allowed to come within two nautical miles of each other. The international standard is three. Mr Lam said there were now two runways and different flight paths. More controllers had to be recruited. 'Operations are more complicated as we are close to the airports in Macau and the Pearl River Delta,' Mr Lam said. 'We cannot totally prevent human error. But we will tackle the problem via better training, assessment, management and facilities.' He denied that heavier workloads might have worn down staff. A government paper had said the incidents involved no risk of collision. But Mr Lam conceded yesterday that an accident could have occurred if the incidents had not been rectified. Cheung Man-kwong of the Democratic Party asked if incidents involving human error could be detected and rectified immediately. 'Of the 15 incidents [involving human error], if just one had been a collision, the disaster would have been bigger than the China Airlines incident,' he said, referring to the crash in August when a jet flipped over on landing in a storm, killing three people. Mr Lam said aircraft in the radar detection area would be issued with warnings if they were too close. Pilots would also be alerted to any collision risk by their aircraft systems.