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AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HONG KONG


By
Phil Parker
Executive Vice President Asia / Pacific
International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations

To apprise aircrew of the ATC environment in Hong Kong from a controllers'


perspective, I have, over the years, written two articles for Cathay Pacific Crews
News. In those articles I touched on subjects such as - airport operations (engine
start, push-back, departures etc.) - spacing on final, approach control, speed
control, distance to run, weather, calibration aircraft, runway changes and
coordination with our adjacent FIRs. Much has changed in the Hong Kong ATC
environment with the opening of the new airport in July of 1998 I have been asked
by many pilot friends to submit another briefing on Hong Kong ATC. This time with
particular emphasis on the changes to airspace, STARS, SIDS, taxy routes,
pushback, equipment, etc., associated with the new airport at and the implications
on operations within the very busy area of the Pearl River Delta. This article has no
official Civil Aviation Department status. It is written by me as a controller who has
worked here for 13 years in the Tower and on Approach and wants pilots to have a
better understanding of ATC in Hong Kong.
As you are all aware, the last couple of years at Kai Tak were very busy for all of us.
The physical constraints of the old ATC radar room were such that we could not
expand the number of operating positions, which in turn meant that the workload
on those positions we had, especially Approach and later, Enroute Radar, were
extremely high. With the new airport we were able to expand the number of
working positions and take the opportunity to completely re-design the airspace and
the fundamental way we handled traffic.
Whenever you listen to an ATC frequency, the radio transmissions are only about
30% of the actual controller workload. The rest of the workload is made up of
planning, manipulating the radar controls, monitoring, strip writing & coordination.
By far, the most time consuming is coordination. Coordination is the notification of
information about what you are planning to do with traffic which may affect an
adjacent controller, to that controller. This can be with other controllers in the same
physical location, e.g. between Approach and Departures, between other controllers
in the same room, e.g. between Departures and Enroute, between controllers at the
same airport, e.g. between Approach and Aerodrome Control or between ATC
Centres such as between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Every decision we make can
have an effect on the next controller you hand the aircraft off to. Even a simple
request for direct tracking by a pilot, must be passed on. Now imagine this simple
request being asked by every departure out of Hong Kong and each pilot asking for
something different, by no means an unusual scenario. You can see that
immediately we have a very large increase in workload.
It is to avoid as much as possible this coordination workload that the airspace for
operations at the new airport were designed the way they are. Im always being
asked why aircraft have to be at FL130 by Mango or Melon and why you must meet
a requirement to be at FL140 by crossing the 154 radial CH. Coordination or should
I say the reduction of coordination is one of the main reasons. This enhances safety
in a busy environment as it allows each individual controller to concentrate on his
airspace and separation planning, knowing with certainty what everyone else is
doing and what requirements aircraft have to meet. The controller also knows that if

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there is any variation to tracking, speeds levels etc., he will be informed.
This is the reason why, at the new airport, when the traffic is busy, controllers are
very reluctant to approve anything other than the standard procedures. It also
means that when the traffic situation permits, controllers are still willing to approve
variations in profile or direct tracking, without you asking for it. You would not
believe the number of times a controller is in the middle of coordinating for
example, direct tracking, when the pilot interrupts him by asking for direct tracking.
While stating that we will always try to facilitate requests, as the traffic increases,
we will have no choice but to stick rigidly to the basic procedures.
On July 6th . last year we changed our air route structure and traffic handling system
overnight. We did it with virtually no problems from an ATC perspective, having
moved to a totally new working environment with new equipment, procedures and
airport layout. This was the culmination of a couple of years of design, agreement
and training. Three years before the airport opened, we had only 9 expatriate
controllers here. Now we have 90. The increase in staffing was to allow the training
and increased number of working positions to go ahead. Many of these controllers
were from North America & Europe and had experience in heavy traffic ATC
environments. This experience was drawn upon in the design of the present
procedures.
CHINA TRANSFERS
Aircraft from China now come inbound through SIERA and are given levels to be at
by SIERA in accordance with a Letter of Agreement with Guangzhou. This stipulates
that the lowest level at S is FL170 with 10 minutes between following aircraft at
the same level. If we dont have 10 minutes, the following aircraft are stepped up at
2000 intervals. i.e. 190, 210, 230 etc. We get the S transfer on inbound aircraft
from Guangzhou via a land-line around 15 minutes before it arrives over SIERA. We
can see aircraft on radar long before they reach Hong Kong airspace, but we do not
know who they are until we get the transfer from Guangzhou and your assigned
transponder code. If you want to call early to let us know that youre on the way,
fine, but its not a lot of use from our point of view, and first make sure you know
the frequency to call. The Radio Frequency Interference we have all been suffering
from over the last few years means that we are forever changing the operating
frequencies at all ATC positions on a regular basis. We always advise Guangzhou
immediately of any frequency change so they should be able to tell you the one in
operation. Bear in mind that if you call too early, the controller may not have details
of your flight in front of him.
Where we do want you to call is about 3-5 minutes North of S. This puts you on
the radar screen coverage we have set up, we have your transfer from Guangzhou,
we know your assigned SSR code, we know your time over S, we know your
transfer level, we can identify you and we can issue instructions for your tracking
after SIERA. Many pilots think we get some sort of radar hand-off from Guangzhou.
We do not. To identify you, we need to know you are squawking the correct
transponder code. To cover this, give us a call as advised above i.e. 3-5 minutes
before SIERA, with your callsign, transponder code and that you have received the
current ATIS. Thats all we want.
As a clue for your planning, if you ever get transferred at a lower level at S, e.g. FL
150, you can expect a short cut to final as it is Hong Kong Approach that requested
the lower level for you. We will, of course, also always endeavor to give you the
shortest possible approach to the runway from S at all times, subject to other
traffic.
PEARL RIVER DELTA OPERATIONS
The ATC ramifications of Macau, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen and a little further

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afield, Guangzhou mean that we have some very complex procedures in place to
handle the respective flights to and from these airports through Hong Kong
airspace. These procedures are mainly for use in the Approach / Departures area.
Just to put you in the picture, Approach Control just handle approaches and
sequencing from FL130 down. Departures Control handles all departures out of
Hong Kong and all departures out of Macau and Shenzhen which enter Hong Kong
airspace. Departures Control has airspace from Sea Level to FL 250 & from FL 140
to FL 250 over the top of Approach airspace. (see the airspace diagram) Departures
is also responsible for all arrivals through Hong Kong airspace to Shenzhen,
Guangzhou and to Macau. With the Macau traffic, Departures looks after them until
he hands them over to the Hong Kong radar position responsible for Macau and
SIERA traffic. Again, just to put you in the picture, Macau departures off runway 34
(by far the most used runway) enter Hong Kong airspace from the Northwest at
6000 and Shenzhen departures, also from the Northwest at 7000. They virtually go
straight over the top of CLK, hence the reason you initially maintain 5000 on the
departure SID. This in turn is the reason most of the time we can give you almost
immediate climb on departure, especially off 25. Macau departures tend to occur in
waves of 6 to 7 aircraft, only at certain times of the day and the rest of the time we
are able to cancel the 5000 restriction on departure.
MACAU
From the Hong Kong ATC point of view, we have 4 possible combinations of
operation for Macau, each requiring different procedures. i.e. RWY25 Hong Kong /
RWY16 Macau, RWY25 Hong Kong / RWY34 Macau, RWY07 Hong Kong / RWY16
Macau and RWY07 Hong Kong / RWY34 Macau. Because of the lower minima for the
34 ILS, RWY 34 is favoured for approaches. The letter of agreement with China
stipulates
that Hong Kong will provide a radar control service to:Arrivals Macau RWY34 (i.e. All arrivals irrespective of where from)
Departures on Macau RWY34 and RWY16 transiting Hong Kong airspace
traffic to & from the East, thru South to the South-West & traffic to East China ,
e.g. Shanghai, which transit our airspace thru DOTMI (100nm to the East of
Hong Kong)
Zuhai ATC now provides an approach control service and radar monitoring to:Departures on Macau RWY16 & RWY34 transiting Shenzhen airspace.
Arrivals , Macau RWY16
Missed approach RWY16
Macau Tower will provide an aerodrome control service, flight information service
and alerting service to aerodrome traffic.
RWY 34 MACAU / RWY 25/07 HONG KONG
ARRIVALS
Hong Kong has dedicated STARS for Macau inbound aircraft from our airspace. The
aircraft basically go over the top of SMT VOR at high level, is then transferred to the
radar position responsible for Macau, descends over the top of the 34 approach to
do a left teardrop to intercept the ILS. The aircraft is cleared for the approach by
Hong Kong and transferred to Macau Tower at around 10 nm from touchdown. For
Hong Kong departures to Macau, aircraft would just be vectored straight to a 10 nm

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final 34 ILS. Were required to coordinate with Macau however, and pending
departures and preceding arrivals may delay your approach. Arrivals from China for
Macau transfer to Hong Kong Radar who then sequence the aircraft to RWY 34.
DEPARTURES
34 departures into China are of no interest to us as they remain in Chinese
airspace. Those for departure transiting Hong Kong airspace are on a SID designed
to take the aircraft just outside our Northwest boundary with a right turn to track
over LKC VOR at 6000 and join the Hong Kong departure stream.
RWY 16 MACAU / RWY 25/07 HONG KONG ARRIVALS
Aircraft from China do not enter our airspace and therefore are no problem. Arriving
aircraft through our airspace would normally track on the same STAR as for Runway
34, but this time are only descended to 9000 and transfer to Shenzhen at waypoint
P. The main difference in our handling of these aircraft as compared with Runway
34 is that we must provide 5 minutes flow control for Runway 16 where for 34, we
just vector the aircraft onto final 10 nm apart. Bear this in mind if you have to
divert to Macau when runway 16 is in operation. Its not only a longer approach,
time wise, but we have to build in this 5 minutes as well. You also have to climb to
9000 to be level by P before we transfer you to Shenzhen. You could also be up
to number 5 or 6 in sequence, depending on the time of day.
DEPARTURES
Aircraft into China turn right off RWY 16 straight into Chinese airspace. Aircraft
transiting Hong Kong use the RWY 16 SID, which is designed to keep aircraft out of
the Approach / Departures airspace.
SHENZHEN
Cathay aircraft dont divert as often into Shenzhen as they used to, but just in case
you do, here is some information. All transfers to Shenzhen are still through BEKOL.
Transfer altitude is 1800 Metres on QNH. Following traffic must be 10 minutes
behind, unless we can coordinate a different level for the 2nd. aircraft. Return to
Hong Kong is via LKC VOR at 7000, with a requirement to be at 7000 before
entering Hong Kong airspace. The other way is for you to return to Hong Kong via
S at FL 110 or FL 120 with no flow restriction.
ZUHAI
At this stage, this aerodrome is not a problem as it is designated Domestic only. We
therefore have no movements from Hong Kong going there except for an occasional
Cathay training flight. Where we do have to be careful is with aircraft in our airspace
near the boundary as some of their aircraft are very close to the other side and we
have no details on them.
WEATHER
You are all aware of the terrible weather we can have in Hong Kong & this combined
with the high movement rate here means that some comment on weather deviation
from an ATC point of view is in order. You will have found over the years you have
flown here that ATC have a policy of always allowing you to deviate around weather.
The only time you will be refused is if your heading will take you in close proximity
to other aircraft or terrain.
Now what you can do for us. Try and give us as much warning as possible of your
requirements so that we can plan how to modify our traffic pattern to suit as closely

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as possible what you want. Dont tell us what you can t do, tell us what you can do.
When under radar coverage, we would prefer that you give us a heading you wish
to fly rather than the number of miles off track you wish to fly. When diverting
around weather, be prepared for a revised altitude limitation. When on diversion to
another aerodrome, dont push us for higher levels. We will get you higher levels as
soon as it is safe to do so. Remember you are not the only aircraft in the sky
diverting around weather and our prime requirement is to maintain separation from
other traffic. During bad weather, not all pilots make the same decisions on
avoidance action and its not unusual to have aircraft going everywhere. The
frequency gets congested, and the controller has great difficulty maintaining some
semblance of order. If you cant get in to us on the frequency and you need to
deviate immediately, do so only if it is an absolute emergency, and, tell us what you
are doing as soon as possible. Dont load up the controller getting him to do the
weather deviation for you. You have the weather radar, he doesnt. Our radar here
does show the more intense weather, but it is no where near as good as yours.
With Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau & Zuhai all very close together, some comment
on weather deviation within the Approach / Departures area would seem in order.
This is because we now have even less maneuvering room than we used to have to
accommodate you. We cannot afford under any circumstances to have aircraft North
of the 25 ILS Localizer or West of the 07 ILS Base leg due weather. It would
invariably mean aircraft entering the adjacent FIR airspace. We would simply not
have the time to coordinate such deviation with the adjacent ATC unit, and of
course it would be inherently dangerous. We have no idea what the aircraft we can
see in others airspace are doing. Add to this pilots into, and out of Macau, who are
also using airspace to the West of us wishing to deviate, you will understand the
problems which can occur. Have some patience and tolerance and help us provide
the safe and expeditious service we like to think we provide you. If you should enter
adjacent airspace and we have not had time to coordinate it or they have refused
request, we would have no alternative but to hand you over to the other authority
for you to sort it out yourself.
With regard to weather radar, we are a little better off to a limited extent in the
Approach / Departures area compared with Enroute radar. We have at the
Coordination position, one monitor showing the Windshear and Turbulence Warning
System, which includes weather data from the Doppler Weather Radar within 50 nm
of Chek Lap Kok. Not all of the radar positions can see it but at least the trend of
the weather can be passed on to these positions.
FUEL RESERVES
I shall just repeat a statement I made in my previous articles about fuel reserves as
there is relevance in this with weather deviation. With regard to fuel reserves,
please dont call minimum fuel, it means nothing to us. You either have a fuel
emergency or you dont. If what you mean by minimum fuel is, if we don t leave
the holding pattern in 5 minutes , we will have to divert then say that. We will
always look at the situation and take a flexible attitude to modifying the landing
order but we have to be fair about this. You cant expect us to delay other aircraft,
which have been holding longer than you, to facilitate your arrival. The amount of
fuel reserve you carry is an operational decision made by you and your company.
From a personal point of view, I have the greatest sympathy for the ultra long haul
flights as they arrive in Hong Kong with fuel remaining based on calculations from a
weather forecast which may be 20 hours old or more when they arrive. Again, from
a personal point of view, I have no sympathy at all for the pilot who arrives from
Taipei without enough fuel to hold.
I dont know what your company policy is with regard to fuel reserves but I have
had some worrying statements from one or two pilots lately when commenting on
the opening of the second runway. It goes something like this. We always had a
problem with Kai Tak in that it only had one runway and even in good weather, if

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that runway got blocked for some reason, we would have to divert. With the new
airport and two runways, that no longer applies as if one gets blocked, we still have
the other. Thats true, but dont forget that once the movement rate gets up to the
high forties per hour, and one runway closes, we would now have to fit that high
movement rate on one runway and you would be guaranteed considerable holding.
ATIS
Over the last few years, you will have noticed that the ATIS gets changed much
more often than it used to. We are now required to record a new ATIS every 60
minutes whether conditions have changed or not. Pilots find this very annoying
because what can happen is that when you call Approach for instance, and they
advise the ATIS has changed, the pilot listens to the new one only to find that the
information is exactly the same as the previous one. The valid argument is, if
conditions have not changed, why change the ATIS. Controllers feel the same way.
As an explanation, perhaps a historical perspective is in order. The first reason for
the requirement is that Cathay management asked for it. Their reasoning was that if
the ATIS was not changed for, say 4 hours, because the weather conditions were
stable, how would the pilot know that the information was still accurate. There could
have been a technical fault that no one was aware of. The other reason is that with
various incidents and accidents over the years, the recorded ATIS at the time of the
incident, has always been part of the safety investigation and Safety Regulation also
like the fact that the recorded ATIS is regularly updated. As an Air Traffic Controller,
Ive always felt uneasy when giving a pilot a change of ATIS because except for
QNH or runway change, I am not aware of what the changes are, or like you,
whether there has been a change at all in the content.
We have the ATIS available to all controllers on a PC monitor, but unless we are
actually looking at it and concentrating on its content at the time of change, we
miss the changes. By the time you read this, the situation should be much better.
What we have asked for, is a change in the colour of the font presented on the
screen for any items which have been changed from the previous ATIS. This will
mean that ATC should be able to say to you for example, information is now X,
QNH now 1013, temperature 33, expect moderate turbulence on approach. This
will save you having to listen to the ATIS again. This service would be for those
aircraft within 5 minutes from touchdown. Further out we would expect you to listen
yourself as we wouldnt have the time.
DEPARTURE
We will start on the ground, before engine start. As you all know we require a 5
min. before start call at Hong Kong. Some of you think that the time at which you
give this call has some bearing on your departure priority. It does not. The reason
for the 5 minute call is so that we can confirm that we have your flight plan in front
of us in the form of a flight progress strip & that the information on that strip is
accurate. We also confirm the bay number information on the strip is correct, start
checking for available levels on your planned route & coordinate with the enroute
controller in the ATC centre. It is the ready to start call, which is important, as this
determines your priority for level & start. ATC here do not favor any particular
airline. We play it strictly down the line. First able to use the airspace and
maneuvering area gets it. The only exception to this is if there is an enroute level
non-availability due through area traffic, or if there is a problem pushing you back
due other traffic.
START AND PUSHBACK
After you have your clearance you contact Hong Kong Ground. Because of the
design of the terminal at CLK and the nature of the taxiways and parking bays, you
will quite often experience a delay for start and push. This is because any push back

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in Hong Kong immediately blocks the taxiway. Pilot friends ask why we dont push
back and then tow forward as we used to at Kai Tak. We were able to get around
many pushback problems there by using this method. Again its the design of the
Terminal and in turn the taxiways which prevent this. There has been a trial over
the last few months with pushback, tow forward, Green on certain bays with Cathay
aircraft only, but at this stage I dont know what the progress is for permanent
implementation. Talking about pushback, dont ask for it unless you are actually
ready to push. It happens often enough to be annoying. Annoying for you because
we have to call you during the start to find out how long your going to be, annoying
for us because once we give you pushback clearance, we have effectively lost the
taxiway. This seems to occur with the B747 more than other types, so perhaps its
something to do with that specific aircrafts start procedures.
BEKOL DEPARTURES AT NIGHT
This is a problem time for you and us. Its a problem for you because your aircraft
are quite often parked on adjacent parking bays which limits our ability to push you
back in a timely manner and taxy you in the right order for departure. The
coordination for levels is quite complex and when you add this to the pushback
problems, the last thing we want is complaints from the cockpit about perceived
delay and how you think we ought to organize things to suit your flight. We have to
take into account the least overall average delay to all flights. Sometimes you can
get delayed because another operator was late departing an hour or more before
you. Because we only have limited levels available and the minimum time between
aircraft at the same level is 10 minutes, any earlier delay can have a knock-on
effect all evening. Another problem is the mix of A340s and B747s on the route. Im
sure I dont need to explain those to you. For the A340s, we always try and
coordinate a lower crossing level at BEKOL. We are very aware of your climb rate.
TAXYING FOR DEPARTURE
When both runways are in operation, taxying for departure is much easier than for a
single runway. This is because all aircraft are taxying in the same direction, whether
they are landings for the South apron or departures from the North apron. Its also
more straight forward for the push-back for departure. You will find however, that if
you are taxying from the North apron, you will never be cleared all of the way to the
holding point for departure. You will be taxied South on W to hold short of W2
Landings for the South or West aprons may also be taxied South on V to hold short
of V4 There are two reasons for this. Number 1 is that we use these points for
transfer from Ground North to Ground South. The other reason is that because both
of these taxiways are close to the Tower, we cant see your aircraft for a portion of
the taxiway. Its basically a failsafe procedure. Even with only the South runway in
use, you will also get the requirement of holding short when South on W for 25 and
South on V for 07. Likewise, an aircraft taxying to the North apron after landing on
the South runway, will be told to hold short of taxiway B for the same reasons.
TAKE-OFF
Next to the take-off. When you call ready, be ready. There is nothing worse from a
controllers point of view than a pilot who has called ready, been lined up and
cleared for take-off, only to find him sitting on the runway for 20 -30 seconds
without moving while the aircraft on final behind him has covered 1 to 1.5 miles.
Once you are cleared for take-off, I expect no longer than a 5 seconds delay before
I see you rolling. When operating dual runways with no aircraft on final for the
South runway, delay on departure is not a problem. Single runway operations are
very different however, and with the space available for your departure, we can
accept no delay.
Departure on Runway 25L in the right weather conditions is independent from the

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North runway arrivals, so you can expect very little delay. Runway 07R departures
however are dependant on the North runway landings. This means we cant clear
you for take-off until the North runway landing has touched down. The requirement
is due to ICAO regulations for missed approach procedures in a dual runway
environment. As a point of interest, this airport has been designed to use the North
runway for all landings and the South runway for all departures. The exceptions to
this are cargo flights and the Government Flying Service, which can land on the
South runway. Under no circumstances are we permitted to allow any other aircraft
to land on the South runway simply because it is more convenient for you. We can
land you on the South runway due weather or turbulence considerations, but in that
case we would land all aircraft on the runway and effectively go to single runway
operations with the delay that involves.
ENROUTE
There is a requirement in the Hong Kong AIP that stipulates that you must reach
cruising level before the TMA boundary. (This means that you reach cruising level
within radar coverage) It is very important that you meet this requirement and if
for any reason you cant, that you tell ATC immediately .
There are a couple of reasons for this :(1) ATC never hand off to another FIR a problem created in our airspace. The
reason we require early notice if you can't make a level is so that we can coordinate
an alternative with the next FIR, if in fact one is available and it usually isnt. ICAO
lays down separation standards which can be radar distance, ( which is the smallest
separation standard ) a DME distance or a time standard. If you are in radar
coverage, say climbing to FL 290 and you have an opposite way aircraft at FL280
(cruising) we can use a radar standard or keep you off track until reaching the level.
(We also need to have the opposite way aircraft on our frequency and identified to
do this or alternatively a laterally, procedurally separated outbound track.) It's a bit
hard when the opposite way aircraft is in another country's FIR, under their control
and more than likely out of radar coverage. The situation gets worse, the closer to
the boundary you get because we have less time to coordinate, hence the early
notification by you if you cant make the level.
(2) If you are about to go out of radar coverage but are still in our FIR on routes to
the Southwest, i.e. beyond ISBAN or IDOSI, we then need to use a time standard.
That could mean you having to stay at a lower level until definite passing (usually
10 minutes after estimated time of passing) or be at a level above the opposite way
traffic 10 minutes before estimated passing. This is fine if there is no other aircraft
opposite way 10 minutes behind the first one. On those routes, there is so much
traffic you would never get to climb. Even the level you are at, would more than
likely have preceding traffic without the required longitudinal time standard for
separation. Again the situation gets worse, the closer to the TMA boundary you get
because we have less time to sort the mess out before you get out of radar
coverage. Even if we could orbit you, there is more than likely traffic behind you
causing another problem for the controller, hence the early notification by you if
you cant make the level.
To cover all of this, the adjacent FIR's have letters of agreement signed by the
respective countries laying down the requirements for transfer of aircraft, and these
LOA's are legally binding. You will find, for instance that Taipei and China both have
requirements similar to those in our AIP. If we didn't have these requirements, the
whole international ATC system would not be able to work in a safe and efficient
manner. We would also be spending all of our time coordinating with adjacent FIR's
for every single aircraft on climb or descent.
ARRIVING

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With the change in airspace structure when we moved to Chek Lap Kok, we
promulgated a series of STARS to make life easier for both ATC and aircrew. Built
into these STARS are some level and speed requirements to be met.
The first one I will discuss is the requirement to be at FL260 by 100 DME TD when
inbound from the East and FL 260 by CHERI, APPLE or LOGAN when arriving from
the South. The main reasons for these requirements are twofold. One is to get you
down to facilitate crossing climbing and descending traffic, especially from the East.
We have a very large volume of traffic crossing A1 route into and out of China via
DOTMI. The other reason is to get all inbound aircraft to the same level so that
speed control requirements have the same effect on all aircraft. A speed reduction
of say, 30 knots IAS at FL 350 has a very different effect on ground speed
compared with a 30 knot reduction at FL 260. Although we give speed reductions as
an IAS, its the ground speed that ATC are interested in. You will find that subject to
traffic, the requirement is effectively cancelled by the controller saying when
ready, descend to "
The other is the requirement to be level at FL 130 by MELON or MANGO. This is a
very important requirement from an ATC point of view. Its to enable the inbound
aircraft to enter Approachs airspace within the vertical boundaries of his
responsibility, removing the requirement of Approach coordinating with Departures.
Departures has the airspace from FL 140 to FL 250 over the top of Approach. Its
also is the reason you have to meet the requirement of reaching FL 140 or above
by the 154 radial from CH VOR. This is to save Departures coordinating with
Approach and keeping the crossing inbound and outbound aircraft vertically
separated. Dont expect the requirement to be @ FL130 by MELON or MANGO to be
cancelled unless there is very little traffic. e.g. early in the morning or late at night.
By the way, if we cancel the SID off Runway 25 and send you direct OCEAN or
SNAPA, it becomes our responsibility to keep an eye on your rate of climb and do
the required coordination with Approach to ensure vertical separation with crossing
inbound traffic. We are supposed to tell you that the requirement has been
cancelled but dont always have the time, so if your SID has been cancelled, dont
worry about asking if the requirement has been cancelled, because it has. This does
not mean however, that you can reduce your rate of climb. We still want the same
climb rate as were relying on it to judge predicted vertical separation from other
crossing traffic.
FINAL SPACING
I will just explain what we are trying to achieve with your spacing on final when
using one runway only. We have in Hong Kong a fairly high proportion of medium
to long haul departures. We also have an ever increasing number of B747 Freighters
going to long haul destinations. Because of this we need 8 nm between aircraft on
final or more correctly its time equivalent of 2.5 to 3 minutes, to be sure of getting
most of our departing aircraft away between arrivals. Quite often Approach will give
you a speed to maintain on final only for you to be told when you call the Tower to
reduce. This is because the Tower Controller knows which aircraft he intends to get
airborne next. The Approach Controller doesnt. The Approach Controllers job is to
provide a regular average spacing which will cover most but not all departure gaps
required. It is up to the Tower to make sure the gap is big enough. For information,
the default spacing for the North runway at the moment is 5 nm Remember, if you
are not given any speed control requirements on final, youre required to be at 180
knots by 15 from touchdown and 160 knots by 5 miles. Also, if you are given a
speed to maintain which you find hard to comply with, please tell us. We have a
pretty good idea of the performance capabilities of most aircraft but we are not
pilots rated on specific types and we only know if were making life difficult for you if
you tell us.
Unless youre no.1 in an approach sequence you will always have to be slowed down

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because you are always faster than the aircraft ahead of you. Even if you matched
IAS to maintain spacing, you are generally higher than the aircraft in front meaning
a higher TAS meaning a higher Ground Speed which means the gap will close. To
put it another way, if we had 2 CPA 747s following one behind the other, both
inbound from ELATO for a 25 ILS & we did not touch their speeds at all, to achieve
8nm between them on final, when the first aircraft was 50 nm the second would
have to be 75-80 nm.
VACATING THE RUNWAY
Always try to make the rapid exits after landing. They are designed for exit speeds
of 35 to 45 knots and thats the sort of speed I am expecting you to use. Ive seen
aircraft so slow when approaching the rapid exit, that they have had to put on
power to vacate the runway. Dont stop on the high speed and if you do for any
reason, make sure the whole aircraft has passed the holding point for the taxiway.
You would be surprised at how many pilots call clear when they still have 200 of
aeroplane behind them encroaching on the runway. Dont change to Ground
frequency until told to do so. For cargo aircraft pilots, if you think you may have to
roll to the runway end after landing, please tell the Tower controller. This is because
rolling to the end reduces the time available for a subsequent departure and the
controller may decide not to line that departure aircraft up, reducing a possible
subsequent landing having to make a missed approach.
Unless you are a cargo flight, after landing on the South runway, you can always
expect to join Taxiway J Eastbound. The exceptions are :- (1) If landing 07 for the
North apron, and you can vacate via J7, you can expect an immediate left turn
Northbound on W. (2) If landing 25 and you miss all the rapid exits and vacate via
J2, you can expect to taxy via H. When landing on the North runway, if runway
25R is in use, expect to be told to taxy via B. This is because if you use A you
could meet the subsequent arrival vacating onto A via an earlier rapid exit. When
landing 07L, expect to join A. If youre for the West or South apron, try to vacate
via A7 to join V as this will save you considerable taxy distance.
DISTANCE TO RUN
I know you all like a distance to run so you can recalculate your descent profile after
we have vectored you for traffic sequencing. We will always endeavor to give you an
answer. Please be aware however, that during a busy sequence, the workload on
Approach is very high and working out a distance to run for your aircraft is taking
our attention away from our primary aim of sequencing, vectoring and providing
separation to all of the other aircraft. When we do give you a distance to run it is
only a rough guide. Hopefully it will be + or - 5nm. The other thing to bear in mind
is that distance to run will depend on your ground speed. The next time you want to
ask Approach for distance to run & he or she is obviously busy, consider working
one out yourself. After all, you should be situationally aware enough in the Hong
Kong environment to work out which aircraft you are following and where that
aircraft is.
HOLDING CLOSER TO HONG KONG
Another question asked by pilots is why we dont hold aircraft over TD, feed aircraft
into the top to descend in the pattern and out the bottom for the approach, instead
of having the outer holding patterns. After all, this is the way its done in London and
it works fine there. One reason is that all of the aircrafts data labels on the radar
screen would overlap and clutter up the screen. Another is all of these aircraft would
be on Approach frequency severely overloading it. We feel it is better, if we have to
hold you at all, to do it further out, at a higher level, to reduce your fuel
consumption and spread the workload to other control positions. We also dont hold
you anywhere near as much as we used to as the whole ATC system has been
designed to put you into one of 2 inbound streams, from the East and from the

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South. These streams are set up by using speed control or vectoring, to a default
in-trail separation.
FLIGHT CALIBRATION
I have had a number of lively discussions over the years about the navaid
calibration aircraft. Mainly about the fact that primary navaids go off for
considerable periods of time and the delays this aircraft causes. We have the utmost
sympathy for you but there is nothing we can do about it. His operations add about
the equivalent of 30-40 extra movements per day which increases our work load
immensely. The fact is the aids have to be checked regularly and the aircraft has to
have priority to complete the task as soon as possible so that we can get our aids
back. I repeat that there is nothing as controllers that we can do about it. Its an
engineering decision based on laid down requirements. We all just have to live with
it. Caustic comments to the pilot of the calibration aircraft as has happened in the
past, do not help either. He has a job to do, let him get on with it.
RUNWAY CHANGES AND SELECTION
The decision on runway in use is based not only on present wind but forecast wind,
trend over a period of time, windshear , pilot reports etc. etc. The decision to
change runways, is not taken lightly. It causes tremendous problems both in the air
and on the ground to facilitate any change. Apart from the weather considerations,
Approach have to consider the disposition of their traffic. They have to rearrange
the sequence, take into account those aircraft that are still on approach but have
not yet landed, take into account aircraft already at the holding point waiting for
departure, coordinate with the Tower as to the time the last aircraft will depart on
the present runway & what time the first aircraft will land on the newly nominated
runway. This all takes a lot of work & time. Now imagine you as a pilot have just
made a missed approach off the 25 ILS and the two aircraft behind you have done
the same thing. You want to try a 07 approach. We of course will always try to
facilitate your wishes, but dont under any circumstances expect an immediate
reversal for a 07 ILS. Unless there are no aircraft on the 25 approach behind you
and no departures rolling runway 25 it will take a minimum of 15 -20 min. to land
you on 07, even if you are no.1.
CONCLUSION
I have had probably a couple of hundred hours sitting on the flight decks of aircraft,
asking questions, observing how you work and learning about the performance
characteristics of the aircraft you fly so that hopefully I can provide a better service
as a controller. The longest I have ever had a pilot sit next to me during my 30
years in ATC, plugged in with a headset on to learn about what I do was 10
minutes. I was once up front of a 727 flying from Sydney to Adelaide and the
Captain turned to me and said, its great you controllers do cockpit famil flights to
learn about our problems . When I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea
if he visited ATC for a famil, his answer was I dont need to. I already know what
you do. Of course he didnt have any idea. Most pilots dont. What I am leading to
is an open invitation to all pilots to visit the ATC complex at Chek Lap Kok. I know
its difficult to arrange to get air-side through the security but we have a system in
place for visits. Weve had everyone from school children to Executive Councilors
visit the ATC Centre but very few pilots. I know who I would rather have visit. If you
want to organize one as a group or individual, contact your Flight Operations section
and get the phone number of ATC management. Pilots are always welcome.
Last but not least, remember, the next time you feel inclined to blame ATC for
delays, ATC never delay aircraft. Other aircraft delay aircraft, we just separate them
in accordance with laid down standards.