The Kowloon approach

Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport will always have its fixed place in aviation history books. Until the new airport Chek Lap Kok was opened in 1998, over several decades one of the world's busiest airports was situated between shopping streets and the harbor. The legendary approach on runway 13 led directly over the city to the famous “checkerboard”, a red-white area on top of a hill. From there, pilots had to make a visual 45° turn at only 500ft height over the rooftops of downtown Kowloon onto the runway. This didn't leave a lot of space for corrections – jets that touched down too late rolled straight into the docks. The last one to share this fate was a China Airlines jumbo in 1993. Especially crosswind demanded every last piece of skill from the pilots. This often caused some spectacular manoeuvres when pilots tried to push the plane onto the runway as early as possible, resulting in damages numerous times. However, in the end it was yet another factor that led to the launch of the new airport – Kai Tak was bursting at the seams. The opening of the artificial airport island Chek Lap Kok on July 6 th 1998 thus marked a giant noise drop for the residents of Kowloon.

Here you can find some pictures from Kai Tak that can be enlarged to 800px


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© Lukas Kirchner 2005