Those living under flight path will be pleased, but the reduction from 37 to 32 flights an hour could have a knock-on effect on the city’s competitiveness
From next summer, the maximum number of overnight flights arriving in and departing from Hong Kong International Airport will be reduced and crimp travel to several destinations, the Post has learned.
The move to cut back the number of planes taking off and landing could affect travel to and from popular Asian cities like Bangkok, Tokyo and Singapore and hamper cargo-only flights which could harm Hong Kong’s competitiveness.
But the cap on aircraft flying at night could be a relief for Hongkongers living near the airport and under flight paths – the biggest source of complaints being aircraft noise when people are trying to sleep and for whom opposition to the expansion of the airport and construction of a third runway is fierce.
Under measures introduced by the aviation regulator, the maximum number of aircraft taking off and landing between 2am and 6.59am – a period when just one runway is open – will be limited to 32 flights per hour, down from 37.
The number of flights will be restricted to 160 during that period – a reduction of 13 per cent.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, a district councillor for the island of Ma Wan, which is situated right under flight paths, said: “Of course, I welcome any reduction of flights. Any measure that can reduce aircraft flight noise is a good thing.”
The Civil Aviation Department said the reduction was being enforced after taking advice from external consultants who recommended in 2008 that 37 planes taking off and landing was too intense, a figure that has stood since the airport opened in 1998.
“This revision has taken into account the fact that operations are being conducted at night while runway maintenance may be under way. Under those conditions, intensive operations on minimum aircraft spacing are considered not desirable,” said a spokeswoman, who declined to say why the recommendation was being acted upon almost a decade after it was made.
The civil aviation director general from 1998 to 2004, Albert Lam Kwong-yu, indicated that the reason for the delay may be linked to the fact that the types of aircraft arriving and taking off these days were much bigger and needed more space and distance between take off and landing, particularly when just one runway was open.
“The number of big aircraft is more than what they estimated at the time. The 32 per hour scheduling is not unreasonable,” Lam said, with more safe distances needed between bigger aircraft taking off and landing caused by wake turbulence, Lam said. “Safety is paramount,” he stressed.
With no substantial increase in take-off and landing slots, budget airline HK Express said: “In order for [the airport] to remain competitive and to be a catalyst for growth in the Hong Kong economy, it is essential to find more efficient ways to deploy additional slots before the third runway is open.”