Hong Kong Airport: random jotting

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  • By Saya Mya (MOFA)

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Leaving Shwedagon and Yangon blue sky
“Giving back to the communities and institutions that help us achieve success is a value we share and a privilege we embrace.” [Dinesh Paliwal]
The writer of this article always loves to read beautiful and true inspirational quotes as a human being who was born and brought up most of the years in life with “Undesirable Disadvantages”. However, as a simple government employee, the author passed through bumpy, hard and tough roads in the service, and honourably retired after 42 long years.
After retirement, the writer is giving back on self-help basis, in a manageable scale, writing Myanmar-English knowledge books, at a loss out of own purse, for the English learners.
While enjoying the luxury of a pensioner, our loving daughter working in Hong Kong sponsored the author and better half to have some fun together, despite her heavy work schedules.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning on 24 June 2018, perfect with the clear blue sky of Yangon; and we passed the ‘Great Shwedagon Pagoda’ from the side of Pyay Road on our way to the airport.
My foreign friends always talked about Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and praised its grandeur and splendor. Even with different religious faiths, they happily and interestingly visited Shwedagon. Buddhists around the globe believed the pagoda to be more than 2,500 years old and is the most sacred site for the Buddhist population of Myanmar.

Flying Myanmar National Airlines (MNA)
As I boarded the aircraft of MNA, my old and ripe age of 75 rolled back in reverse to 57, as two extremely sweet and charming Myanmar airhostess flashed welcoming smiles and helped the geriatric to the seat. Myanmar National Airlines, formerly the Union of Burma Airways, Burma Airways, and Myanma Airways, is a state-owned airline and the flag carrier of Myanmar, based in Yangon. The author flew to Hong Kong by MNA, and witnessed the general improving status of our beloved airline. I wish all the best and success to MNA.

Hong Kong International Airport
At 2:30pm local time, the MNA bird landed on the Hong Kong soil.
Our loving daughter was waiting at the exit tube of the aircraft, from where we had to walk a long, long way to arrive at the immigration counter, as the terminal is very large. Hundreds or, perhaps, over a thousand of visiting passengers were queuing in zigzag row to get to the immigration counter.
One handsome junior immigration officer saw me in limbo, and asked me, “Grandpa!!! You looked tired. Come with me to another counter”.
He was a man with a soft heart towards senior citizens. I am thankful to you, good guys.

Impressive airport
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, which largely comprises land reclaimed for the construction of the airport itself.
The airport has been in commercial operation since 1998.
In 2015, HKIA handled 68.5 million passengers, making it the 8th busiest airport worldwide by passenger traffic.

Past difficulties and hardships
Chek Lap Kok Airport was designed as a replacement for the former Hong Kong International Airport (commonly known as Kai Tak Airport) built in 1925. Located in the densely built-up Kowloon City District with a single runway extending into Kowloon Bay, Kai Tak had only limited room for expansion to cope with steadily increasing air traffic.
By the 1990s, Kai Tak had become one of the world’s busiest airports – it far exceeded its annual passenger and cargo design capacities, and one out of every three flights experienced delays, largely due to lack of space for aircraft, gates, and a second runway.

New idea (US$20 billion)
In 1988, the Port & Airport Development Strategy (PADS) Study was undertaken by consultants, headed by Mott MacDonald Hong Kong Limited, reporting in December 1989.
Construction of the new airport began in 1991. As construction progressed, an agreement was reached with Mainland China that as much as possible of the airport would be completed before the handover to China in July 1997. In the event, British Prime Minister John Major opened the Tsing Ma Bridge, the main access to Lantau Island and the airport and its supporting community in May 1997, prior to the transfer of sovereignty to China. Actually, the airport itself was opened in July 1998.
The airport was officially opened in an opening ceremony by President Jiang Zemin at noon Hong Kong Time on 2 July 1998. Hours later, Air Force One, carrying United States President Bill Clinton, landed at the airport and became the first foreign visitor to arrive at the new airport. The actual operation of the airport commenced on 6 July 1998, concluding the six-year construction that cost US$20 billion.

Master Plan 2030
One year after on 2 June 2011, the Airport Authority announced and released their latest version of a 20-year blueprint for the airport’s development, the Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030. The study took three years and according to the authority, nine consulting organizations have been hired for research, observation, planning and advice. The main focus is to improve the overall capacity and aircraft handling ability of the airport. Based on this, two options have been developed.

Option 1: Two-runway system
The approximate cost of this plan is $23.4 billion Hong Kong dollars in 2010 prices, or HK$42.5 billion in money-of-the-day prices. However, the Airport Authority estimates that the airport will reach its maximum runway capacity sometime around 2020 if no extra runway is added.

Option 2: Three-runway system (about one flight every 36 seconds)
It is estimated that the airport would be able to handle a maximum of 620,000 flights per year (102 per hour, or about one flight every 36 seconds), and meet forecast annual passenger and cargo throughput of about 97 million and 8.9 million tons by 2030 respectively.
There are possible drawbacks. The estimated cost is approximately $86.2 billion (2010) Hong Kong Dollars, or HK$141.5 billion (at money-of-the-day prices). There are also environmental and local noise pollution concerns.

As an old ordinary senior citizen pensioner, the author of this article is highly impressed on the Master Plan as it is created through the study which took three years to work out with nine consulting organizations for the research, observation, planning and advice.
In fact, it is not a small bit, but a Herculean task to be handled by right persons for the right work. There is a saying that every nice piece of work needs the right person in the right place at the right time.

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