Hong Kong’s new air traffic control system not putting at risk aviation safety

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 10:25pm

I refer to the report on the new air traffic management system (“Air traffic system set for more delays”, October 29).

Being an air traffic controller, who has used the new system to operate real-time air traffic, and president of the Hong Kong Air Traffic Control Association, I wish to allay people’s concerns over this issue.

Air traffic controllers of the Civil Aviation Department underwent rigorous training and assessment before we obtained our licence to handle air traffic. We are one of the best teams that acquired international recognition. The new system has adopted advanced electronics technology and is better than the existing one in terms of functionality. Given that our existing system has been in active use for nearly 20 years, it is imperative to have it replaced in order to cope with the change in air traffic demand.

The public can rest assured that all of us have undergone different forms of training, practices and assessment before we qualified to use the new system. Therefore, aviation safety within the Hong Kong flight information region (HKFIR) will not be undermined due to the upgrading of the air traffic management system.

Concerning the incident on October 27, to the best of my knowledge, it was due to the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai that our staff input a flight plan which operated outside the HKFIR that we generally do not need to handle. As a result, the designed protective measures of the new system were activated among a small number of workstations and the flight plan data in question was not processed. All other workstations used for direct communication with aircraft were functioning and flight safety was never at risk.

The decision to hand over real-time traffic back to the existing control centre was definitely not made rashly. It was in fact in full compliance with the established procedures for phased functional implementation. Measures have already been taken to avoid a repeat of similar incidents.

I would like to emphasise that all air traffic control colleagues are, as always, capable and qualified to offer safe and orderly air traffic control services to the public by using the new system.

I can assure your readers that all air traffic control officers will continue to perform their duties painstakingly around the clock to safeguard the safety of the skies.

Tommy Au Yeung, Lantau