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ATMS Expert Panel holds fourth meeting and publishes interim report
     The Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) Expert Panel set up by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) held its fourth meeting today (April 3) and published an interim report on teething issues arising from the commissioning of the new ATMS, and the optimisation and fine-tuning work carried out by the CAD.

     During the meeting, the expert panel confirmed the content of the interim report, which covered the results of the discussions of the first three meetings and confirmed that, up till the end of February, the new ATMS had been providing safe, reliable and generally smooth air traffic services within the Hong Kong Flight Information Region (HKFIR) and had been compliant with the international safety standard since its full commissioning on November 14, 2016. Although the new ATMS experienced some operational hindrances, the interim report stated that the CAD's staff had handled those occurrences professionally, as per standing practice, and minimised potential safety risks. The interim report, making comparisons to international best practices and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s safety management system process, pointed out that the CAD has in place an effective and established mechanism for responding to different situations occurring after the full commissioning of the new ATMS.

     According to the interim report, the ATMS has successfully coped with the challenges of peak traffic demand during the holiday seasons in the end of 2016 and early 2017. The average number of daily air traffic movements handled by the new ATMS increased by 3.75 per cent when compared with the same period a year earlier. It was an assuring indication of the performance of new ATMS as well as the front-line Air Traffic Control (ATC) staff, the report said. Nevertheless, it noted that the CAD should get prepared for the next round of challenges during the inclement weather and typhoon seasons in the summer of 2017, continue monitoring the performance of the satellite-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), and further enhance the display of aircraft positions and minimise conflict alert nuisance caused by false targets. Views from the front-line Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) for optimising operational procedures and hardware should be gauged. The interim report also urged the CAD to continue monitoring ATCOs' workload, and to adopt different measures, such as reviewing the break/relief arrangements and providing additional ATC manpower during peak hours/seasons of air traffic, to keep pace with growing air traffic in the longer term.

     The interim report is available on the CAD's website: www.cad.gov.hk/english/reports.html.

     During the fourth meeting today, the CAD updated the expert panel members on the implementation of the software fix, which was provided by the contractor to address the flight plan dis-association issue and the temporary issue with the electronic flight strip. The CAD has carried out thorough tests and safety assessments on the software fix according to the established procedures laid down by the Safety Management System, which is also in accordance with the ICAO's requirements. Upon successfully passing through relevant tests and assessments, the software fix was implemented in the new ATMS on March 20. Since then, the operation of the new ATMS has remained stable and smooth. The expert panel members reminded the CAD to continue to closely monitor the performance of the new ATMS and the effectiveness of the new software fix in fully addressing relevant teething issues.

     With regard to the implementation of ADS-B technology, the expert panel members noted that improvements have been seen in the display issues of aircraft positions on the radar screens (in regard to occurrences such as the phenomena of split tracks and aircraft positions not being displayed temporarily on the radar screens) following the progressive introduction of ADS-B in the HKFIR. The expert panel members urged the CAD to work towards the full integration of ADS-B in the new ATMS progressively in 2017 to further enhance the display of aircraft positions.

     Lastly, the CAD consulted the expert panel members on ending the cold standby mode of the old ATMS. As pointed out in the interim report, the operations of the new ATMS had been smooth since the full commissioning and none of its fallback systems had to be activated. The system availability of the new ATMS had all along exceeded 99.9 per cent, fully achieving the international best requirements. In view of the above, the expert panel members agreed to the CAD's assessment that it was not necessary to use the old ATMS again. Provided that everything is smooth in the coming few weeks, the expert panel members concurred that the CAD can put an end to the cold standby mode of the old ATMS on May 14 as initially planned, i.e. six months after the commissioning of the new ATMS. The new ATMS has multiple fallback systems, including the Main System, the Fallback System and the Ultimate Fallback System, which are located at different parts of the CAD Headquarters to ensure a sustainable and reliable ATC operation. As a next step, the new ATMS will be extended to the old ATC Centre for backup purpose. 

     All the expert panel members attended the meeting today, including local representatives Mr Warren Chim, Mr Albert Lam and Professor Man Hau-chung, as well the President of the National School of Civil Aviation in France, Mr Marc Houalla, and the Chairman of the ICAO Asia Pacific Regions Air Traffic Management Sub-Group, Mr Kuah Kong Beng, as overseas representatives.

     The expert panel's terms of reference are to provide objective and expert advice to the Director-General of Civil Aviation on teething issues arising from the commissioning of the new ATMS and the necessary optimisation work, and to share with the CAD international experience and best practices in relation to the long-term optimisation of the new ATMS. The members have been appointed for a one-year term till November 30, 2017. The expert panel members will continue to meet from time to time to offer advice on the necessary optimisation work of the new ATMS.
Ends/Monday, April 3, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30
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