Hong Kong’s aviation authority has told a contractor to investigate a brief hitch to the air traffic management system on the first day of the new year.
Individual workstations of its air traffic management system were “not responsive to commands” in the morning, Civil Aviation Department said in a statement released on Wednesday. The problem prompted technical staff to switch to a fallback system – identical to the original one – at 9.10am, it said.
A department spokesman said there were some temporary restrictions on departing flights, but “arrivals and [flights over the region] were not affected”.
There was no risk to safety, he added.
He said the air traffic control officers were able to maintain direct voice communication with pilots at all times, as well as monitor and obtain full information of all flights within Hong Kong airspace.
The main system was rebooted, checked by the department’s technical staff then used as a backup. The ultimate fallback system was not activated during the process.
The department did not reveal how long the hitch lasted, only describing it as “brief”.
It said it had tasked the system’s contractor to conduct a thorough investigation and submit a report as soon as possible.
Warren Chim Wing-nin, a spokesman for the aircraft division at the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, said the incident did not appear to be high-risk, based on the available information.
“In reality, it is impossible for a system to be completely free from problems,” Chim said. “You can’t say something is abnormal because there are incidents.”
He said factors to be looked into should include why such a problem had happened and whether the problem was similar to those that had happened in the past or a new problem.
Other problems have been reported in the current air traffic management system. In August 2018, radar screens did not show full information for three flights. The department later explained the glitch stemmed from “unexpected data corruption” when the details of a flight route were being processed by the main air traffic management system.