The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) reported the leaking of a radar image from its new air traffic control system to the police on Monday, after a screenshot was published in a Ming Pao report on the same day.

Radar image leaked to Ming Pao. Photo: Ming Pao screenshot.

The image showed a Delta Airlines aircraft at 300 feet closely tailing a Malaysian Airlines aircraft which was also at the same altitude. The radar appeared to show that the two planes were in danger of collision, and displayed the “PAN” signal which denotes a state of urgency on board an aircraft.

It was later discovered that the Delta Airlines aircraft had already landed, and the signal was a false alarm.

The CAD told the paper that the PAN signal originated from outside of Hong Kong, and the radar was only displaying the flight’s last known location as it usually would. They also said the accusation made by the worker who leaked the image to Ming Pao was groundless and irresponsible.

The CAD reported the information leak to the police.

A police spokesperson confirmed with HKFP that they have received a report from the CAD on Monday, and have assigned the case to New Territories South Regional Crime Unit. No arrests have been made so far.

‘Preposterous’

Airport Development Concern Network spokesperson Michael Mo Kwan-tai called the CAD’s action preposterous. He cited Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation which states that “the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents. It is not the purpose of this activity to assign blame or liability.” Mo said he will ask the International Civil Aviation Organization to investigate this incident.

Hong Kong is not a signatory of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

Photo: GovHK.

Civic Party lawmaker and airline pilot Jeremy Tam Man-ho told Ming Pao that the new airport traffic control system has run into several problems since it has been installed, including multiple cases of these so-called “ghost aircraft” appearing on the radar. The CAD has to explain why a plane that was on the ground appeared on the radar at the wrong position and at the wrong altitude, Tam said. He asked the CAD to urge contractors to strictly address the problems with the new airport traffic control system.

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Stanley Leung

Stanley is a Media and Communications graduate from Goldsmiths College in London. He takes particular interest in visual journalism, having produced photographic and video work on a number of social and political issues. He has also interned at the current affairs service of RTHK’s TV division.