CAD responds to media enquiries on new ATMS

     In response to media enquiries on the new Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) today (November 9), a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said:

     The CAD reiterates that regular rebooting of the ATMS' individual workstations is part of regular housekeeping procedures. An agency report today, which claimed that the workstations were regularly rebooted to "minimise system crashing", was totally unfounded. The CAD must point out that the ATMS has not experienced any "system crash" (neither a frozen radar screen nor suspension of operation) since its commissioning in November last year. The air traffic volume handled by the new ATMS has far exceeded that of the old ATMS. Its performance has also gained international recognition. The media report mentioned that the frequency of system crashes experienced by the ATMS has been getting worse and quoted a source, who claimed to be a front-line air traffic control officer (ATCO), as saying that the operation of the workstations has been worsening. These allegations are totally unsubstantiated.

     Regular housekeeping procedures include closely monitoring the real-time performance and the functionality of all the sub-systems, and carrying out all the checks and maintenance work at all the workstations in the new Air Traffic Control Centre (ATCC) and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower at appropriate intervals, which includes regular rebooting of individual workstations to maintain smooth system operation. The ATMS Expert Panel set up by the CAD has agreed that the CAD should continue to carry out regular housekeeping procedures of the ATMS and its sub-systems in accordance with the requirements of aviation safety management. The CAD's current established procedure for rebooting workstations is in line with the recommendations of the system contractor as well as the experience gained from actual operation. Rebooting of different workstations in the ATMS is conducted in phases and in batches. The whole system is not rebooted at the same time. Rebooting of individual workstations will not affect ATC services and flight operations or undermine aviation safety. In fact, major overseas ATCCs also in general regularly reboot individual workstations based on their needs, which is part of their routine housekeeping procedures.

     The new ATMS has not encountered a "system crash". There were five confirmed cases of slight sluggishness of the screen display on individual workstations. During the occurrences, all flight targets and data were shown on the screen. Aviation safety was not affected. It was not necessary to reboot the workstation concerned immediately during the occurrence. Without affecting the operation of the ATC, the maintenance staff rebooted the workstation concerned during period with relatively low air traffic flow. The workstation concerned resumed smooth operation after rebooting. As a matter of fact, the radar screens of individual workstations have occasionally experienced sluggishness, and mice and keyboards may not be responsive to command. The CAD has obtained relevant information through regular monitoring and reports by ATCOs. It is essential to have established procedures to handle such situations. Under such circumstances, ATCOs can still communicate with and give ATC commands to pilots, ensuring that there is no impact on aviation safety. The CAD and the contractor will continue to enhance the system, including improving the aforesaid issues.

     In fact, under the concerted efforts of a group of professional ATCOs and system maintenance staff, the ATMS' performance has been satisfactory since its full commissioning in November last year, including during peak air traffic in festive periods and under adverse weather. The average number of daily flight movements handled by the new ATMS (including flight movements at Hong Kong International Airport and overflights) was 2 017, representing an increase of 6.7 per cent when compared with a daily average of 1 890 during the corresponding period a year earlier. The increase was especially notable during the summer holidays (July and August), with a daily average of 2 091 flight movements, representing an increase of 8.3 per cent when compared with a daily average of 1 930 during the corresponding period last year. A new single-day record of 2 341 flights was set on August 24. Overall, the new ATMS, since its commissioning, has increased efficiency and reliability in the Hong Kong Flight Information Region. After the optimisation work in the teething period, the performance of the new ATMS has been more stable. The CAD was recently presented with the Global Safety Achievement Award by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation in recognition of the significant contribution made by the CAD to improving aviation safety over the last 12 months. For details, please refer to the relevant press release:

     The CAD spearheaded the setting up of the AutoTrac III Users Group to discuss the operational and technical experience of using the ATMS supplied by Raytheon Company. Members include the civil aviation authorities of India and Dubai and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. During the AutoTrac III Users Group meeting held at CAD headquarters in September, all users (including the Airports Authority of India) were in general satisfied with the overall performance of the ATMS and concurred that closer co-operation among the users would help improve the system performance effectively and continually.

Ends/Thursday, November 9, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:52