Date
11 December 2016
Civil Aviation Department chief Simon Li said the latest incident resulted from errors during flight data processing of the new air traffic management system. Photos: CNSA, TVB
Civil Aviation Department chief Simon Li said the latest incident resulted from errors during flight data processing of the new air traffic management system. Photos: CNSA, TVB

Latest air traffic system glitch at Chek Lap Kok prompts inquiry

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) will invite academics, electronic engineers and airport control tower staff to join an expert panel that will look into various issues involving the new air traffic control system at the Chek Lap Kok airport.

It has also asked US defense company Raytheon, which manufactured the HK$1.5 billion Autotrac 3 traffic management system, to submit a report within 48 hours and provide solutions to issues that have cropped up since the system went live on Nov. 14, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing CAD director-general Simon Li Tin-chui.

Li made the announcements at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon after the system again failed to show some flight data for as long as 26 seconds.

The latest incident occurred at about 1 p.m., four hours before the press briefing, Li said.

As a result, the control tower suspended the departure of aircraft for 15 minutes, affecting a total of nine flights.

Li, however, said airport operations remained normal during the period.

Citing analysis conducted by CAD engineers, Li said the incident resulted from errors during flight data processing of the system and should not have happened.

While he once again described it as “not ideal” as he did on Nov. 20, Li said the incident did not endanger aviation safety since the control tower staff could still contact the pilots of the flights in the air at that time to confirm their position.

He also said a backup system was available.

In the latest incident, no flight fell off the radar, unlike what had been detected by control tower staff several times since the new system was officially launched.

Asked if the old system was superior to the new one, Li did not give a straight answer but said the latter is more advanced with a higher degree of automation, without confirming if the CAD prepared to relaunch the old system.

Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a newly-elected Civic Party lawmaker who was once a pilot, said the 26-second system failure was “definitely long” and suggested the situation faced by control tower staff has worsened.

The Transport and Housing Bureau, which supervises the CAD, said in a press release Tuesday night that the latest incident should raise concern.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung has ordered the CAD to find out what went wrong with the new system.

The bureau has tapped NATS Holdings, a British provider of air traffic services and solutions, to look into the new system with the aim of keeping aviation safety at Chek Lap Kok at the highest level.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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