Safety must improve as air travel grows
Operational safety at China's airports must be improved to keep pace with the rapid expansion of air travel, a senior official from the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) said yesterday.
Qin Zhanggao, vice-director of the CAAC's Department of Airports, based his remarks on figures showing 70 to 80 per cent of the country's air accidents happen on the tarmac of, or close to, airports.
According to Qin, last year a total of 64 safety incidents took place in or near airports across the nation.
This included 10 runway intrusions, 5 power supply and flight area accidents and 25 cases of aircraft being struck by birds or other flying objects.
"I'm not confident about the safety situation of the nation's airports, especially considering the nation's booming civil aviation industry," Qin added.
He made the remarks while addressing the ACI-Pacific Best Practice Seminar & CEO Forum, jointly organized by the Airports Councils International (ACI) Pacific and the Capital Airport Holding Company, in Beijing yesterday.
The CAAC statistics indicate that by the end of last year there were 137 airports on the Chinese mainland.
They handled around 242 million passengers and 4.5 million tons of cargo and post last year, an increase of 38.8 and 22.3 per cent respectively over 2003.
"Over 80 per cent of the airports in the country fail to meet standards for installing safety facilities such as fire fighting and emergency rescue equipment," Qin said.
In addition, safety problems were also found in airport power supplies, runways, taxiway surfacing, airport fencing, and in the prevention of birds.
"Accident prevention in airports has become a key element for strengthening the nations civil aviation transport businesses," Qin said.
Internationally, airports try to avoid airport-related accidents by adopting a safety management system.
When pursuing safety in the aviation industry, it is not adequate to rely purely on the investigation of accidents and resulting recommendations, said Edmund Wong, senior operations officer of the Civil Aviation Department of Hong Kong.
"The aim should be to identify and rectify failures in the system prior to problems developing," he said.
Qin's administration is working on this kind of preventative mechanism while drafting some rules and regulations on airport safety management.
"The CAAC is working to improve training requirements for air-side security personnel at airports and also establishing rules on the development of emergency rescue plans," Qin said.
It is estimated there will be almost 200 civilian airports in the country by
2010. For the next 16 years, 400,000 square metres of passenger terminal and
150,000 square metres of cargo transportation station will be built every year,
according the CAAC's estimates.