Business Aviation Operating to Hong Kong: Flight Planning & Weather
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Hong Kong and continues from our last article: “Business Aviation Operating to Hong Kong: Permits & PPRs.”
When planning business aviation operations to Hong Kong (VHHH), be advised that procedures for filing flight plans differ from many other parts of the world. At this location it’s always important to have your ground handler involved with flight plan filing in order to avoid potential issues and help ensure on time departures.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. ATC procedures for VHHH
The briefing office at VHHH processes flight plans and checks to ensure that all required permissions are in place, including landing permits, airport slots, and Prior Permission Required (PPR). For operation to VHHH it’s not necessary to notate airport slot or PPR confirmations on your ICAO flight plan. Air Traffic Control (ATC) is primarily concerned with traffic management issues and does not check to verify that you have required airport slots and/or PPR.
2. Flight plan processing
Normal practice at VHHH is for the crew or 3rd-party provider to forward a flight plan to the ground handler who will make any needed corrections and submit it to the briefing office. VHHH has a procedure whereby all flight plans are submitted via computer link directly into the ATC system. It’s the responsibility of your ground handling company to ensure this is done. Even though 3rd-party providers may generate the flight plan, it does not actually get put into the system until the ground handler gets involved. Handlers at VHHH do not charge for submitting flight plans to the briefing office.
3. Reviewing flight plans
As airspace is highly congested in the Hong Kong area, your ground hander will check to ensure that your routings, altitudes, and departure procedures are correct prior to leaving VHHH. This helps avoid any filing issues when your flight plan reaches the airport briefing office. If the briefing office does find errors in a submitted flight plan they’ll send it back to the ground handler for correction.
4. Potential flight plan issues
Altitudes in the vicinity of VHHH are important considerations with regard to flight plan filings. Mainland China airspace is only about 10 nautical miles (NM) away, from the point of takeoff, and operators are required to reach certain altitudes within specific times. For example, if you’re traveling from VHHH to an airport on the mainland, you’ll need to reach at least flight level (FL) 290 prior to making approach to any airport in China. Note that there are many restricted areas of airspace in and around VHHH, and only Stage 3 compliant aircraft are permitted to operate within Hong Kong airspace.
5. Preferred communications
While it’s permissible for flight crews to fax flight plans directly to the VHHH briefing office, this is not recommended. It’s best practice to have all communication with the briefing office be done via your ground handler. This is because the briefing office can more easily communicate with the handler than directly with the crew. Your handler and the briefing office, working together, can expeditiously correct any potential flight plan errors.
6. Day of operation
Flight plans must be filed a minimum of one hour prior to departure. It’s recommended, however, that flight plans be given to your ground handler as soon as possible to allow them to process the flight plan with the briefing office and ensure there are no issues. If corrections to flight plans are needed the ground handler will alert the crew and coordinate any necessary changes.
7. Equipment requirements
All aircraft traveling to VHHH must have TCAS II or better, as well as MNPS, RVSM, and RNAV 1 certification. Additionally, automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) certification/equipment is required at certain flight levels within Hong Kong airspace.
Note that surrounding countries, including Vietnam, have already implemented ADS-B mandates. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you have all required equipment and certifications in place and that this is noted on your flight plan; otherwise, you may be forced to fly at a lower flight level.
For more information, read our previous articles on ADS-B.
8. Hong Kong overflights
Although overflight permits are not required to transit Hong Kong airspace the airway structure in this region is very complex, and we’ve seen operators encounter routing issues. If there’s any mistake in your over flight routing, VHHH ATC will reject the flight plan, and your aircraft will not be able to leave its departure point. One of the difficulties here is that we often do not know when ATC will reject a flight plan. Best practice is to review AIPs, all NOTAMs, and ensure that acceptable over flight routings are used when transiting Hong Kong airspace. If VHHH ATC determines that your flight plan is incorrect, they’ll send a rejection message to the originator of the flight plan.
9. Additional information on flight plans
10. Weather support at VHHH
There’s a meteorological office on the field at VHHH, providing METARs, TAFs and both local and worldwide weather, but this office is not physically accessible to crew. A local aviation weather website is available, but this requires approved access. While operators may apply to enter this weather site, your ground handler has access and can provide this weather info to crews. In addition, the general aviation terminal (GAT) at VHHH has a workstation available for crews to check NOTAMs and weather, both local and international.
11. Local weather events
Typhoon season occurs in the Hong Kong region between June and September, and this is also the rainy season. During very heavy rain events, VHHH will temporarily close from time to time. In the case of lightning warnings, during thunderstorm activity, ramp activities will shut down sometimes as ground staff must go indoors. During lightning warnings, aircraft may land and taxi, but no ground services will be available. These warnings vary in terms of length of time they’re in effect and are most prevalent during summer months. Note that humidity in Hong Kong can be very high during late spring and throughout the summer, but winter conditions are mild in this region.
1. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Hong Kong – Series Index
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – Ground handling
- Part 2 – Fuel, security and additional services
- Part 3 – Airport slots
- Part 4 – Permits and PPRs
- Part 5 – Flight planning and weather
- Part 6 – Hotels and local area
Be diligent in ensuring that the ground handler is part of the flight planning process into and out of VHHH. With routing restrictions due to a heavily congested area, filing flight plans that may need corrections can delay your flight when filing on your own. Also, there are weather concerns during the summer months to consider when traveling to this destination.
Later, we’ll discuss hotel and local area information for Hong Kong and their impact on your trip.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Hong Kong, contact Alan Pong at email@example.com.