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CAD responds to media enquiries on new ATMS
     Since the full commissioning of the new Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) on November 14, 2016, it has been running on a 24-hour non-stop basis. In accordance with international practice, recommendations of the system contractor as well as experience gained from the operation, the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) has arranged the maintenance staff to carry out regular housekeeping procedures for all the sub-systems of the new ATMS to ensure that the equipment is kept operating safely, reliably and stably. Regular housekeeping procedures include closely monitoring the real time performance and the functionality of all the sub-systems (such as the Tower Electronic Flight Strips System, also known as the TEFS System); and carrying out all the checks and maintenance works at all the workstations in the new Air Traffic Control Centre (ATCC) and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower at appropriate intervals. CAD's current practice of rebooting all workstations once in every one to two weeks is also in line with the recommendations of the system contractor as well as experience gained from the operation. During the regular maintenance, the Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) can continue to provide air traffic control services, without affecting flight operations and aviation safety. The old ATMS used by the CAD, other ATMSs of different brands used overseas and other new ATC Systems, have to undergo regular maintenance procedures as well.

     The TEFS System has already been put into operation in 2012 when the old ATMS was in operation. It has been enhanced and incorporated into the new ATMS as one of its sub-systems when the new ATMS was launched last year. It serves to provide flight plan data of departure and arrival flights to ATCOs. The TEFS System installed at the ATC Tower of the CAD experienced a momentary hitch on May 2, 2017 at around 6.20am and could not process the flight plan data of some departure flights. In accordance with standard procedures, relevant information was then provided by the ATCC temporarily. As the occurrence took place in the small hours with only a handful of departure flights, the CAD took the opportunity to conduct a more thorough on site check into the TEFS System and individual workstations at the ATC Tower. After the TEFS System had been re-booted and the data thoroughly verified, the system resumed normal operation at 7.30am (i.e. before the Hong Kong International Airport resumed two-runway operation). During the occurrence, the other functions of the new ATMS and the operations of the ATCC were not affected. Flight movements at the Hong Kong International Airport remained normal. Aviation safety has not been undermined. Occurrences were also occasionally experienced with the TEFS System when it was operating independently from the old ATMS. The CAD and the system contractor are investigating into the root cause of the occurrence and taking the appropriate follow-up action. The ATMS Expert Panel has been briefed on the occurrence. As the occurrence has not affected aviation safety or the operation of the airport, the CAD did not announce the occurrence, but informed the ATMS Expert Panel about it and will deliberate with the Expert Panel members on it in the coming meeting in early June.

     According to the CAD's records, there has been three loss of standard separation incidents within the Hong Kong Flight Information Region since March, i.e. about one incident per month on average, comparable to the average figure when the old ATMS was in use. It should be emphasised that the new ATMS was operating normally when the three loss of standard separation incidents took place. Investigation of the three incidents revealed that the new ATMS has issued predictive conflict alert and/or conflict alert in a timely manner as per system design. The aircraft involved in the incidents operated in a safe and controlled manner at all time, and aviation safety was not undermined. All the aircraft concerned has no risk of collision. The CAD conducts investigation on all loss of standard separation incidents in accordance with international practice and established procedures, ascertain the level of risks, and make necessary improvement measures. The incidents and investigation results are regularly reported to and reviewed by the Air Traffic Safety Assessment Committee, with representation of the flight and aviation safety experts from local airlines and CAD. In fact, irrespective of whether it is the new or the old ATMS, or any other brands of ATMS around the world, air navigation service providers would occasionally encounter loss of standard separation incidents.

     With regard to various aircraft display issues on radar screen (e.g. split tracks and aircraft positions not displayed temporarily), they are caused by the limitations of radar surveillance technology instead of the new ATMS. The CAD has all along been striving to expedite full integration of the satellite-based "Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast" (ADS-B) technology into the new ATMS so as to breakthrough the technological constraints imposed by sole reliance on radar surveillance technology. With the progressive introduction of ADS-B in Hong Kong, significant improvements have already been observed in the display issues of aircraft position on the radar screens. Between March and May (as at May 27), the average number of reports of false targets and split tracks per week were 3.9 and 0 respectively, reflecting a substantial reduction from 8.8 and 4.3 respectively per week when the new ATMS has just been launched (between mid-November 2016 and February 2017). The CAD will continue to implement the ADS-B progressively with a view to fully integrating it into the new ATMS by 2017, so as to further optimise the aircraft display issue on radar screen.

     The CAD is committed to ensuring aviation safety and would not compromise on the matter. The CAD fully understands the community's concerns over aviation safety. Should there be any issues concerning aviation safety, timely promulgation will be made according to the established mechanism in an open and transparent manner.
Ends/Sunday, May 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 23:57
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