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Kai Tak Airport 啟德機場 - Hong Kong's old runway

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#1 กำนัน

Posted 21 October 2005 - 02:44 AM

There's something I really regret I didn't have the opportunity to do... and that's the old Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong. The checkerboard approach was and still is legendary in the aviation industry, a hair raising last minute bank over Kowloon city's rooftops just a few seconds before touchdown, so low you could count the rivets on the aircraft if you were on the street.
I really wish I'd had the chance to land at that downtown airport before it closed forever in 1998. Alas, I was a few years too late.

Some pictures and a video for you...

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... and another of my regrets, missing out on the chance to fly on Concorde :starwars: Here she is approching Kai Tak...

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And Finally, a couple of nice Sim videos of the approach...

Video 1

Video 2

#2 mbk

Posted 21 October 2005 - 03:52 AM

Mandrake, those are some great photos. I never had any idea that's the way those planes flew in. Stunning!

#3 กำนัน

Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:29 AM

I've got some videos somewhere in my archives of botched approaches, I'll post them when I have a moment.

I really don't know why I have such a fascination with that old airport. Perhaps it's all the time I spent in Kowloon City, where I would look up and try to imagine the aircraft overhead... or perhaps it was looking into the empty and derelict airport a couple of years after it closed and felt so sad for the place after it's long and illustrious life as one of the Worlds great airports.
If you look at Google Earth satellite imagery, you can clearly see the old runway, which runs out into Victoria Harbour, being dug up now. I beleive it is to become a park, with some housing complexes and an aviation museum.

#4 Axel

Posted 21 October 2005 - 10:05 AM

Mandrake, I do not want to make you jealous, but I must have been in and out of Kai Tak hundreds of times and saw the development from early 1971 till the closure.
Picking up arriving people, at least on a Sunday, was good too. Looked out of my windows on Hong Kong side and when I saw the plane approaching, it was time to drive over to pick them up on time.

Similar pix I did send to friends who still live in HKG. The responses have been quite emotional.

Perhaps not for the one I attach, but than I saw this plane for weeks to come, although they pulled it out, scraped to airline's logo off and left it in an open hangar.
One of my customers was on board this flight, made it safely having sat in front.

Attached Files

#5 Bluecat

Posted 21 October 2005 - 01:17 PM

There is actually a lot of things I did that I wish I did not do.
But that I'm now missing... :starwars:

#6 britmaveric

Posted 21 October 2005 - 01:26 PM

Hmmm time for everything I think! :starwars: However that being said shame to miss HK experience - can't rebuild an airport gone. :read:

#7 Axel

Posted 21 October 2005 - 02:57 PM

The right turn on the final approach, having passed the mountains on Kowloon side was really something
(rarely you landed from the sea-side), often watching bush fires during the dry season.
Old pilots will tell you, that it was quite safe, looking down at a laundry shop and just over all the laundry hanging on bamboo poles, TURN. Only problem on Thursdays, when the laundry was closed.    :starwars:
Joke? May be, or is it?

Actually, pilots needed a special licence to land and take off at Kai Tak. So the pilots were stationed at Bangkok, Taipei and Tokyo just flying back and forth to HKG. This lasted until the era of 707, DC 8 etc. was over. After that, with jumbos, DC 10 coming, it became easier but still.

Finally, I read somewhere, two of the first Brits landing at the very old airfield at night, nearly got heart attacks when seeing the montains next morning, they had missed.

#8 กำนัน

Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:10 PM


Mandrake, I do not want to make you jealous

Too late :D
I had a feeling you'd have been through Kai Tak a few times over the years

Here are those vids I mentioned of botched approaches, the first one a Korean 747, who misjudged the crosswind, the second an Alitalia who hit the ground so hard, I'm surprised it didn't crack the runway...

Attached File  control_total_de_avion.mpg   890.6K   

#9 Bluecat

Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:23 PM

The landing was actually more impressive for the people on the ground than the people on the plane.
When you're in the plane, you do not see much, if not next to the window, and even there it is not that impressive.
But seen from the buildings, it is very impressive.
I actually always sit on the center aisle seat, so never saw it from the inside... :starwars:

#10 Axel

Posted 21 October 2005 - 05:03 PM

Interesting clips, Kimji- and Spaghetti airlines.  :help:t

#11 Axel

Posted 23 October 2005 - 10:38 AM

In Japan they have a word for happiness:
Japanese wife, Chinese food and Western house.

Now shouldn't I be happy or should I?

Nothing is too late.  :starwars:

#12 กำนัน

Posted 29 October 2005 - 05:20 AM

A few more pics I really like. I must be obsessed with that place :starwars: ...

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#13 Bluecat

Posted 29 October 2005 - 06:13 AM

View PostAxel, on Oct 23 2005, 05:38 PM, said:

In Japan they have a word for happiness:
Japanese wife, Chinese food and Western house.

No shouldn't I be happy or should I?

Well, a bit more practice on the Chinese food side and you'll be fine... :starwars:  :read:

#14 Scots Corner

Posted 10 June 2006 - 04:48 AM

I can't wait to come over now - even though I won't be flying into Kai Tak airport....thanks for the great thread mandrake...you just covered my 2 favourite things in one go.....HK, and aircraft!!  :P



Posted 10 June 2006 - 06:22 AM

[color="#990000"]Here are some good shots of pilots that just could not handle good old Kai Tek![/color]

May 15, 1997.   Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) Boeing 747-281F[/color]
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[color="#990000"]April 15, 1995.  Garuda Indonesia Boeing 747-2B4B[/color]
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[color="#990000"] June 06, 1994.  Dragonair Airbus A320-200 [/color]
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[color="#990000"]November 18, 1993.   China Airlines Boeing 747-409

It's not often you see a 747 being lifted by crane pass your office window! A fortnight after the accident, a floating crane lifts B-165 from the sea and transports the aircraft to the northern part of the airport, where it was transported on land.[/color]
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#16 กำนัน

Posted 10 June 2006 - 06:43 AM

That one at the top gave the engine pod a good clout by the looks of it.

#17 chinavol

Posted 10 June 2006 - 07:57 AM

Wow! great photo's!

Landed there many times and it felt like a couple of those looked. I loved the airport being part of the city or the city being built around the airport. From almost any bar lounge and many restaurants you could easily see the planes taking off and landing, entertaining. It was an interesting ride in severe desent into the landing pattern, then the heading right toward a small house or business endlessly, dropping the wing to a 90 degree angle at low altitude, hard right turn, wing flips back to normal then immediate landing. I always felt pretty comfortable knowing that the flight crew were all at full alert during the landing due to the complexity and risk. I feel more uncomfortable landing at the new airport where I feel the crew is cutting up an talking about their upcoming evening plans while landing the plane on auto-pilot.

#18 Nordlys

Posted 11 June 2006 - 05:23 AM

You can still watch this, Mandrake.   :P
Only it's not in Asia.  

Attached File  0998826.jpg   383.49K   

Edited by Nordlys, 11 June 2006 - 05:24 AM.

#19 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 05:28 AM

Yes, if you didn't know it was real, you'd almost think it was Photoshopped. Remarkeable image.

#20 Nordlys

Posted 11 June 2006 - 05:42 AM

And this is how what used to be Kai Tak airport looks like today.  

Attached File  459100.jpg   756.82K   

Edited by Nordlys, 11 June 2006 - 09:11 AM.

#21 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 06:34 PM

This has reminded me of something and may be of particular interest to Scotts Corner, in his line of work.
I remember years back, standing in the back garden one day and hearing something approaching in the sky. I looked up and to my astonishment, a 747 was right above me (there are no airports in service anywhere near my home town) and it was so low, you could almost reach out and touch it. It really was quite a shock and you could almost smell the exhaust fumes it was so low.
I now know what it was doing there, flying over my house as though it was about to crash. It was a retired Air France 747-100 on it's way to Bruntingthorpe airfield, just a couple of miles from my home, which is an old military facility with the longest runway in the country. You can see from the picture below that my home is right in the approach to the runway. It was on it's last ever approach because it was to be blown up in an experiment to create bomb proof cargo pods...

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... and here's what they did with it. They even pressurised it for more accurate results...

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Coincidentally, I was working for a logistics organisation that was salvaging parts of the aircraft and I had the opportunity to visit the site. It was quite sad to see the nose section on it's side, the spiral staircase still in place, it felt like the site of a disaster.
I must go again soon as the airfield has some old aviation relics, such as the worlds only airworthy Comet and a selection of other old aircraft.

#22 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 07:18 PM

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And here she is in happier days...

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#23 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 08:47 PM

Back on topic, here another recent image of the old Kai Tak site. Notice the taller buildings starting to go up in the area...

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#24 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 09:02 PM

A dreadful landing. Just look at the angle, they're almost heading for Wan Chai!... can you imagine the panic on the flight deck!...

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#25 กำนัน

Posted 11 June 2006 - 09:28 PM

Almost brings a tear to the eye :P ...

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#26 Nordlys

Posted 12 June 2006 - 05:01 AM

And more....

Attached File  099077.jpg   142.28K    Attached File  136849.jpg   226.22K   

#27 Nordlys

Posted 12 June 2006 - 05:07 AM

Attached File  221368.jpg   1.06MB    Attached File  296829.jpg   250.48K   

Edited by Nordlys, 12 June 2006 - 05:10 AM.

#28 Axel

Posted 12 June 2006 - 08:30 AM

Two more, I did not see here:

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#29 Voodoo Child

Posted 31 October 2006 - 04:32 AM

Two things to type into the search box on YouTube for hours of aeronatical viewing pleasure;

Kai Tak

St Maarten

#30 Axel

Posted 24 November 2006 - 05:01 AM

Still there:

Attached File  hong_kong.jpg   41.62K   

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