Breathtaking Photos Of Kai Tak Airport Glory Days By Daryl Chapman
There was once a busy international airport in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong named Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport (Kai Tak).
The airport was in the middle of the city with tall buildings all around and where people drive and walk to their office.
Before it was closed in 1998, Kai Tak was regarded as one of the most difficult airports in the world for pilots to fly in and out of.
It is very dangerous because the aeroplanes may hit the high buildings around the airport .
Cathay Pacific Airways’ general manager of operations and pilot, Russell Davie said:
“As a pilot it was totally unique, it was the only major airport in the world that required a 45-degree turn below 500 feet to line up with the runway, literally flying between the high-rise buildings passing close to the famous orange and white checker board as you made that final turn toward the runway.”
Here are some of the photos of the aeroplanes from the airport and the ones that are going to Kai Tak in Kowloon Bay…
(Please click the photos for larger images)
A Lufthansa 747-400 makes the famous 45-degree turn over Kowloon City for runway 13.
“It was totally unique,” says former Cathay Pacific pilot Russell Davie. “It was the only major airport in the world that required a 45-degree turn below 500 feet to line up with the runway.”
“With no other runway in the world demanding such a tight, curved approach, the lighting pattern had to be unique to Kai Tak,” according to Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department.
On November 4, 1993, a China Airlines pilot overran the runway while landing in the rain, putting a five-month-old 747-400 into the sea. Fortunately, all 396 passengers survived.
Plane spotters gathered on the roof of the car park at Kai Tak, recalls photographer Daryl Chapman. It was one of the best locations to see arriving and departing aircraft
Kwun Tong Ferry Pier was another popular location for plane spotters.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways began operations in 1946, before the plan for Kai Tak expansion and the promontory into Kowloon Bay was approved in 1954. (The first recorded flight from the site took place in 1925.) Cathay was the last carrier to take off from the airport in 1998.
Watching planes landing in heavy rain is one of Chapman’s scariest memories. “Here’s a CX 747-200 getting a little low in the rain,” says the photographer. “Some [pilots] seemed to wait a little longer than others before they aborted the landing and went around for another go. Some would appear out of the low clouds on the approach path then power up and vanish back into the clouds.”
Low-flying planes offered passengers a voyeuristic experience — some could actually see what residents were up to through apartment windows in Kowloon City. Understandably, many locals on the ground didn’t always appreciate the attention.
Kai Tak’s observatory deck? Nope, it’s the old airport’s car park on the last day of operations in 1998.
Sitting partly in the city and partly in the sea, Kai Tak International Airport was one of the world’s most exciting (and terrifying) airports to fly into.
Despite its difficult runway, Kai Tak was for a time the third busiest airport in the world, handling 29.5 million international passengers and 1.56 million tons of international cargo in 1996.
One of the most beautiful sights at Kai Tak — Air France’s retired Concorde makes an elegant takeoff.
In the background is the famous Checkerboard Hill. The orange and white checkerboard served as a visual signal for pilots to begin the turn for the runway. The maneuver became known as the “checkerboard turn.”
Not a common sight elsewhere — a passenger jet flies above bamboo scaffolding and TV antennae.
Iconic scene from Kai Tak International Airport — a Cathay Pacific jet between apartment buildings in Kowloon City. “This photo was taken in To Kwa Wan just at the entrance of the airport tunnel (now Kai Tak tunnel),” recalls photographer Daryl Chapman.
Some 15 years after it closed down, Kai Tak is reopening this week as Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.