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Hong Kong airport studies adding day and night flights ahead of 2-runway capacity crunch

The number of day and night flights at Hong Kong International Airport may be increased in separate measures to head off a capacity crunch looming next year while maintaining growth before the third runway is built, lawmakers have heard.

The Airport Authority signalled at a Legislative Council meeting today that it was looking to raise daytime capacity to 70 takeoffs and landings per hour, up from the present limit of 68 – which the operator was expected to max out by next year.

Plans for the increase were part of a two-pronged approach that the authority’s chief executive, Fred Lam Tin-fuk, had in mind to boost flights in the day and at night “before the complete saturation” of the airport.

“We are conducting a study to see if we can make use of technology to increase the number from 68 onwards,” Lam said.

“[Any increase] will be very limited, to 70 air traffic movements. If we have two additional ATMs, it will be of extra help to the capacity of the airport as a whole.”

The per-hour limit of 68 aircraft movements currently translates into 420,000 in a year – because night flights are scheduled at a much reduced number of 37 an hour to avoid noise pollution.

As well, one of the two runways is closed nightly for maintenance between 1am and 7am, reducing flight handling capacity.

Even so, night-time capacity could be increased by granting new takeoff and landing slots to quieter and fuel-efficient aircraft.

This would be the subject of a new study taking up to two years, Lam announced to Legco.

“Nowadays, planes are much quieter, so we are conducting a study,” he said.

“Now if we do not increase noise pollution, is it possible to add more ATMs at night? If that is possible, it may solve half of the problems.”

Lam said, however, that the planned growth in flight handling was not a means to “replace the need for a third runway”, which had been criticised as being unnecessary.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong, who was running as an election candidate for the Ma Wan district council this month, said: “I don’t think the [daytime increase] is a big issue. It’s only two more flights per hour.

“[But] even if there are noise mitigation measures at night, I will not agree to increasing more flights at night because Ma Wan residents need to sleep.”

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