15 November 2018
CAD director-general Simon Li (center) and assistant director-general Raymond Li (right) said the new air traffic control system is operating smoothly. Photos: HKEJ
CAD director-general Simon Li (center) and assistant director-general Raymond Li (right) said the new air traffic control system is operating smoothly. Photos: HKEJ

No worries, says CAD after flight falls off radar for 12 seconds

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) admits that a flight disappeared from the radar screen for about 12 seconds last week after the new air traffic control (ATC) system was officially launched, but insists the system has been operating smoothly without any problem worth worrying about.

Raymond Li Kwok-chu, CAD assistant director-general (air traffic management), told a news conference on Sunday that a flight fell off the radar for as long as 12 seconds last Tuesday, a day after the HK$1.5 billion Autotrac 3 air traffic management system procured from US defense company Raytheon was fully put in operation, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The aircraft was flying near Sunny Bay at an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet, but aviation safety was not affected since it was still within the sight of personnel at the airport’s control tower, Li said.

Richard Wu Chi-kwong, assistant director-general (air traffic engineering services), said the new radar system is equipped with two-level monitoring processes.

As a result, it might take longer for a flight to be shown on the radar screen due to data merging, which could be delayed by several factors such as terrain.

CAD director-general Simon Li Tin-chui called the incident “not ideal”, but said it has been the only one of its kind since the new system went live in phases in June this year.

He also said similar incidents had happened before the system was replaced.

Data regarding the incident has been forwarded to Raytheon, the CAD head said, adding that there is no need to cut down the number of flights at the airport as a response.

Former aviation chief Albert Lam Kwong-yu also stuck up for the department, saying it is normal to see a new system have a bumpy start when it is launched, expecting the one in question needs 12 to 18 months to improve.

But Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a newly-elected Civic Party lawmaker who was once a pilot, criticized the CAD for trying to downplay the incident and avoid questions at the press conference.

Tam, who has accused the department of replacing the old system despite knowing that there were some bugs in the new one, said there was no need to ask Raytheon to examine the data at all if the CAD really thought there was nothing wrong with the new system.

Simon Li denied allegation reported in media that the CAD had requested its staff to approve the new system and say it was ready to go when they were asked to answer an internal questionnaire.

In fact, the CAD chief said, his office had told all employees in an internal letter that anyone who felt under pressure could file their complaints directly to him or the management.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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