Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong airport’s new air traffic control system is safe and reliable, its world-class numbers are proof

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 11:19pm

I refer to the article, “Answers needed over close calls in Hong Kong airspace” (April 10), and would like to clarify the misconception about the performance of the new Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) and “loss of separation” incidents.

Since its full commissioning in November 2016, the new system has, on numerous occasions, demonstrated its capability to handle challenges brought about by adverse weather conditions, holiday traffic peaks and contingency situations.

A record-breaking number of flights were handled last August. The total number of movements handled by the new ATMS between November 2016 and October 2017 increased by 6.7 per cent year on year.

The safety, reliability and smooth round-the-clock air traffic control services of the new system have been acknowledged by the ATMS Expert Panel report last November, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, and senior management of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Asia and Pacific Office.

Loss of separation incidents, or breach of an applicable minimum distance between two aircraft, were attributable to a diverse range of factors, including inclement weather, operating procedures and human factors.

In fact, irrespective of whether it is the new or the old ATMS, or any other brands of ATMS around the world, air navigation service providers would occasionally encounter such incidents.

In 2017, Hong Kong had one loss of separation for every 44,640 flights (taking into account total aircraft movement at the Hong Kong International Airport and overflying aircraft for the year). For the first quarter of 2018, there were two incidents (one in 99,946 flights).

However, although the number of such incidents recorded in Hong Kong continues to compare favourably to international performance, the Civil Aviation Department will stay vigilant to ensure safe operation.

It may be noted that the new ATMS issued a predictive conflict alert and/or conflict alert in each loss of separation incident, as per the system design.

There was no evidence to suggest that the incidents were ATMS-related. The department will continue to optimise the new ATMS to provide stable air traffic control services and ensure that ATMS performance continues to meet relevant international standards.

Raymond Li, assistant director general of Civil Aviation (Air Traffic Management)