The government announced that the new system of control will not operate until it is shown that it is safe and reliable. At the center of the dispute, the existing radar system would have to be withdrawn in December 2012 due to “lack of capacity and limited functionality”, but air traffic controllers continue to use it.

Experts and insiders believe the new system unreliable. During a test run last year, controllers lost the monitoring of aircraft for 10 seconds. Subsequent tests in July showed a “catastrophic failure” of the system as it did not respond to the test by inspectors. The Housing and Transport Bureau brought in a consultant from overseas to advise on the safety and of the system before it can become operational.

British National Air Traffic Services is thought to be a leading contender for the role because of their previous relationship with the aviation advisory system that runs Hong Kong International Airport. The new system is expected to be operational during the first half of next year.

The government is considering expanding the establishment of the department and the resources allocated to it due to the expansion of the airport and the aviation industry. The Audit Committee is seriously concerned that aviation safety may have been or will be seriously compromised “because the current system would have to be retired”. At dispute is also the added cost of the new system. Originally projected to cost HK$486m. But the department later decided that further improvements were needed, increasing the cost to HK$575.2m.

Fabio Gigante

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