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Mountain fear raised on third runway plan

Hong Kong Standard   Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A veteran pilot doubts whether government planners can get on top of mountainous challenges to a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport.

Retired Cathay Pacific senior first officer Jan Bochenski, with 21 years of flying experience, said he and many other pilots fail to see a way around problems unless there is a mountain-cutting plan.

The 957-meter Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain in the territory, is in the middle of the flight path to the proposed third runway, Bochenski said, and pilots about to land will need to bank aircraft at a sharp angle.

But a towering concern, he said, is Castle Peak at 583m being in the middle of a third runway’s essential escape route if something went wrong on landing.

He asked: “Is the government planning to cut down Castle Peak? Maybe.” But how could a pilot face such high ground if a plane lost an engine? This, he said, would be “impossible.”

Even if all engines were functioning, Bochenski added, aircraft need considerable power to clear mountains.

He also said that if aircraft were to try to avoid facing Castle Peak this would crowd airspace occupied by those using the other two runways.

The Airport Authority has already discussed routes linked to a third runway with Britain’s National Air Traffic Services.

An authority spokesman also said there would be enough “obstacle clearance” to meet requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization. PHILA SIU

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