Hong Kong aviation authorities took 24 minutes to tell planes of emergency runway closure

Hong Kong aviation authorities took about 24 minutes to tell pilots of departing and landing flights that an airport runway was closed due to a cargo plane bursting a tyre, only sharing further details more than an hour after sending the initial warning.

Monday’s incident involving Atlas Air cargo flight 5Y4304 resulted in the closure of the city airport’s north runway, one of only two that is currently operational, for more than eight hours and caused delays for about 450 flights.

It also raised questions about the facility’s ability to effectively handle emergencies.

The Civil Aviation Department told the Post on Wednesday that it began telling aircrew at 7.36am, about 24 minutes after the incident, using an automated information dissemination system to warn pilots of departing and landing flights.

The department then gathered information from the Airport Authority and other relevant parties before providing an update at 8.53am and confirming the condition of the closed runway, it added.

The Anchorage-bound cargo flight requested permission to make an emergency return at around 6am on Monday, two hours after it had departed Hong Kong.

None of the aircraft’s five crew members were injured in the incident.

The Boeing 747 freighter burst a tyre as it landed at 7.12am, with airport staff dispatched to help unload its cargo and replace its tyres.

The plane was later moved from the runway at around 3.15pm, with the landing strip reopening 30 minutes later.

Ng Kam-hung, an assistant professor at Polytechnic University’s department of aeronautical and aviation engineering, said the time frame seemed reasonable given authorities also needed time to perform an on-site investigation.

Time also had to be taken to deploy ground personnel to inspect the malfunctioning hydraulics system, he added.

Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association chairman Paul Weatherilt also agreed the time frame was reasonable, noting such incidents were rare and authorities needed time to address any uncertainties.

A crew member on one of Monday’s incoming flights said they were only told about the closure of the north runway about 30 minutes before their plane was due to land.

The insider said it was possible air traffic control officers could only contact the aircrew as they entered Hong Kong airspace.

The officers had also not confirmed how long the runway would stay out of action, adding their aircraft was lucky to land and was only 30 minutes behind schedule, the source said.

The Airport Authority is also facing calls to review its contingency procedures after Monday’s incident.

Chief Executive John Lee has pledged to look into Monday’s incident. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Meanwhile, Atlas Air has asked to submit a report to the authority and the Civil Aviation Department in accordance with regulations, adding that the failure of the cargo plane’s hydraulics system had resulted in a lengthy maintenance operation.

The Civil Aviation Department earlier said it would follow up about the incident with relevant foreign aviation authorities.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday pledged to look into the incident, with the Transport and Logistics Bureau to take an active role in scrutinising the report to determine whether “any extra action can be taken by the airline and other parties concerned”.

The airport’s north runway has been operational since 2022 and is part of a three-runway expansion project that started in 2016.

The third runway was not used during the incident, as it has been closed for modification works since 2022 and will reopen this year.

Last June, a Cathay Pacific Airways flight to Los Angeles aborted take-off at the airport after an overheated tyre was believed to have burst. The aircraft returned to the gate and evacuated passengers, 11 of whom needed hospital treatment.

There were reports that the south runway had to be briefly closed, resulting in delays to some flights for 30 minutes.



Read More

Leave a Reply