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Thursday, December 1, 2016, 23:13

Expert panel to advise on new ATC system

By Luis Liu

Expert panel to advise on new ATC system
The United States-based ATC system company Raytheon said they would optimize the new air traffic control system. (Provided to China Daily)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's civil aviation authority has set up a five-member expert panel to provide advice on irregularities concerning the new air traffic control (ATC) system, the city's aviation chief announced on Thursday.

The move was made after the contractor of the new system had handed in reports on two recent radar black-outs and offered solutions to optimize the system.

Flights during the upcoming holiday season won’t be affected as the service provider had identified ways to fix the problem

Simon Li, Director-General of Civil Aviation

Director-General of Civil Aviation Simon Li Tin-chui told reporters on Thursday five experts were appointed to join a panel to offer views to the Civil Aviation Department (CAD). They started their one-year term on Thursday.

The experts include former director-general of civil aviation from 1998 to 2004 Albert Lam Kwong-yu, a spokesman for the Aircraft Division of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers Warren Chim Wing-nin, as well as a local and two overseas experts.

READ MORE: Eye in the sky

On Tuesday, outbound flights from Hong Kong were suspended for 15 minutes after the ATC system's flight data processor failed to show flight details for 26 seconds. On Nov 15, flight signals also disappeared for about 12 seconds. No accident happened during these black-outs.

The failure happened when one of the operators in the control tower tried to retrieve playback data from the system for research. It triggered the auto-protection mode and switched the signals to the back-up older system, putting the new system offline, according to a report released by the CAD.

After a 15-minute check, the authority found the systems were functioning normally. There had been no loss or corruption of flight plan data during the incident. Moreover, no personnel should be held responsible for the error, Li said.

Meanwhile, flights during the upcoming holiday season won’t be affected as the service provider had identified ways to fix the problem, Li said.

The United States-based ATC system company Raytheon announced that they would optimize the system, enabling it to keep the established associations between targets and flight plans. This is so server-to-server synchronization could be handled in parallel with other tasks the server is processing, according to the report.

The fix will be available in two weeks.

The HK$1.56 billion AutoTrac III system took over all the operation control last month. The old system is still being kept as a stand-by.

According to Raytheon, the system integrates radar and flight plan data and displays the "most accurate information" to air traffic controllers in a logical, easy-to-read manner to increase controller productivity. It also reduces fatigue and stress and improves reliability, according to the description.

It is designed to meet a 99.9 percent reliability standard as required by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association has demanded the aviation authority to take steps to assure the system’s reliability of the system.

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