Like many other major world airports, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has been a frequent target of lightning strikes over the years. A commitment to the highest safety standards led HKIA in…
Like many other major world airports, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) has been a frequent target of lightning strikes over the years. A commitment to the highest safety standards led HKIA in 2002 to consider the benefits of installing a lightning warning system.
The following year, HKIA took delivery of an advanced Airport Lightning Warning System (ALWS) consisting of hardware installed by ARINC Incorporated and weather data service provided by Vaisala, the leader in environmental monitoring. HKIA was one of the first major airports in the world to adopt the ALWS system.
Today, the airport can point to an outstanding record of safety, with no lightning-related injuries occurring since 2003, despite an average of 40 to 50 thunderstorms each summer.
Lightning hits at major airports every day, and while physical danger is a major concern, there are also economic consequences. When airport ramps must be cleared because of lightning, cancelled flights and delayed schedules may disrupt an entire regional airspace and cost millions of dollars. This places a burden on those who must decide when to sound a lightning alert—and when to signal an all-clear.
The Airport Lightning Warning System is designed to make this decision less difficult. The system at HKIA uses Vaisala regional lightning data and local measurements of atmospheric electricity from sensors installed on the airport grounds. By combining the two types of data, a relative indicator of lightning risk can be obtained and displayed by yellow and red lights.
Under a yellow light, staff and ramp personnel may be advised to stop non-essential activities. Under a red light, managers may halt all airport ramp activities including baggage handling, refueling, and catering. Airport employees, airline staff, and passengers may be advised to stay inside.
The Airport Lightning Warning System has provided guidance to help HKIA managers conduct ramp operations with safety since 2003. The system has also proven robust, using fiber optics instead of wires to avoid data loss from lightning transients.
As part of its far-reaching safety program, HKIA has also installed lightning shelters to protect ramp personnel, and offers passengers a video and leaflet explaining the need for lightning alerts and the effects of lightning on airport operations.
“The advanced Airport Lightning Warning System has now proven itself in more than three years of service at Hong Kong International Airport,” states Larry Brukardt, ARINC Senior Staff Analyst. “HKIA is traditionally an industry leader, and this lightning warning system represents a major step forward for lightning safety in our industry.”
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.