CAAC attempts to solve surface puzzle

09 May 2018
View from an aircraft window of Air China A330s and B-777s at gates in Terminal 3, Beijing Capital International Airport. Surface delays are a severe problem at the Chinese hub. Source: Getty Images

Collaborative surface management software is essential to reduce delays at Chinese airports

Air traffic management (ATM) enhancements in China are essential to improve poor flight punctuality, which has unleashed a wave of disquiet from the travelling public, and to manage planned airport expansion.

Under the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016–20), the government is constructing a nationwide network of regional airports to serve fast-growing provincial cities. By 2020, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) hopes to operate a total of 290 commercial airports (by 1 January 2018 there were 229).

In 2017, four more Chinese airports exceeded 10 million passengers, bringing the national total to 32. CAAC chief Feng Zhenglin and China Southern Airlines Chairman Wang Chang Shun predict that air passenger volume will double between 2020 and 2035. Speaking during the 2018 National People’s Congress in March, Feng added that “equality of access” to air travel is part of a government policy to reduce inequality and poverty. Its long-term aim is to build airport infrastructure in all 2,800 counties.

Centralisation of ATM is a prerequisite to solve its airspace congestion problem and ease delivery of government policies, according to Che Jinjun, head of the CAAC Air Traffic Management Bureau (ATMB). In line with the Civil Aviation Flight Central Management Reform Plan, on 23 December 2017 the ATMB assumed full responsibility for air traffic control at 237 airports.

To reduce delays in the existing system and manage future growth, the CAAC is aware that it must harness the power of IT, data analytics, and social media. Feng pledged action in January during an ATM conference in Beijing, with a mantra of “four strengthens” to improve efficiency, co-operation, safety, and IT-based intelligence.

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