Air-traffic control system at airport meets tough safety standards

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 12:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 12:03am

The letter by Ian Johnston ("System at airport clearly problematic", November 10) contains a fair bit of misunderstanding about the existing air-traffic control (ATC) system that the Civil Aviation Department would like to set straight.

Mr Johnston said that Hong Kong International Airport is "struggling to cope with the current flight load". This is pure conjecture.

As we stated in our letter ("Functioning air traffic control assures flight safety", November 6), the issue involving the radar screen has seen a significant improvement and remains well within the margin of the safety performance indicator after the completion of an enhancement exercise last year. Since the Audit Commission observed this issue and published its report in October 2014, the issue has recorded a continued downward trend since 2014.

The existing ATC system of the airport meets the stringent international air traffic management and safety standards.

The ATC centre of the department has all along been maintaining a safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic within the Hong Kong Flight Information Region.

Over the years, the department has been making continuous improvements to flight procedures and operations as well as optimising the air-space structure to progressively increase the runway capacity to 68 movements per hour in October 2015. Nevertheless, the maximum capacity of the existing two runways of the airport has limitations. Various studies have been conducted in the past to assess the capacity of the two-runway system.

The latest study was the Airspace and Runway Capacity Study commissioned by the Airport Authority of Hong Kong and carried out by NATS Services of the UK in 2008, which was based on the latest ATC technology and international standards.

According to this study, in full compliance with the safety standards/requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the maximum practical capacity that can be achieved with the existing two-runway system would be 68 movements per hour.

We would like to assure Mr Johnston and the public that the existing ATC system and the new one, targeted to be ready for operation in the first half of 2016, can fully cope with the increase in aircraft movements and the department will steadfastly safeguard a safe, efficient and sustainable air transport system.

Richard Wu, assistant director-general of civil aviation,(air traffic engineering services)