Date
8 December 2016
An alert pilot of one of the Cathay flights realized the situation and notified the control tower, just in time to avert what could have been a disaster. Photo: CNSA
An alert pilot of one of the Cathay flights realized the situation and notified the control tower, just in time to avert what could have been a disaster. Photo: CNSA

CAD launches probe into near collision of two Cathay flights

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) has launched an investigation after it confirmed that two planes of Cathay Pacific Airways almost had a head-on collision last week.

However, the agency stressed that the incident had nothing to do with its new air traffic control (ATC) system which is still undergoing tests, Ming Pao Daily reports.

Flight CX663 bound for Mumbai was climbing to 7,000 feet about 16 nautical miles from the Hong Kong international airport at 8:30 p.m. last Wednesday when Flight CX784 flight arriving from Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia was descending to the same altitude, according to Oriental Daily Sunday.

The vertical distance of the two lanes was only 700 feet, less than the minimum of 1,000 feet set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, while the horizontal distance was only a third of the required 18,000 feet.

Fortunately, the chief pilot of CX663 realized the situation and notified the control tower, averting a likely disaster as the two planes proceeded with their trips in safety.

Revelation of the incident once again raised concerns about the new ATC system-the HK$570 million Autotrac 3 traffic management system manufactured by US defense company Raytheon.

The system, which is being used interchangeably with the current one and is set to be put into service officially in November, had been criticized for showing “catastrophic failure” during previous tests.

A CAD spokesman claimed the new system was not in operation when the incident took place, adding that an investigation is underway.

Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a newly elected lawmaker from Civic Party who used to be a pilot, said the incident indicates that some problems faced by air traffic control staff might be more serious than the new system itself, news website hk01.com reported.

He said the staff have been under great pressure and often suffered fatigue in order to become adept at operating the new system, and this could endanger aviation safety.

Tam urged the CAD to dig deep into the incident to understand the entire situation.

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TL/AC/CG

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