Kai Tak Airport


Kai Tak Airport
Kai Tak Airport
啟德機場
Kai Tak Airport 1 filtered.jpg
IATA: HKGICAO: VHHH
Summary
Airport type Public, Defunct
Operator Civil Aviation Department
Serves Hong Kong
Location Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong
Elevation AMSL 9 m / 28 ft
Coordinates 22°19′43″N 114°11′39″E / 22.32861°N 114.19417°E / 22.32861; 114.19417Coordinates: 22°19′43″N 114°11′39″E / 22.32861°N 114.19417°E / 22.32861; 114.19417
Map
Kai Tak Airport is located in Hong Kong
Kai Tak Airport
Location of Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
13/31 (Closed) 3,390 11,122 Asphalt
Kai Tak Airport
Traditional Chinese 啟德機場
Simplified Chinese 启德机场
Cantonese Jyutping Kai2 dak1 gei1 coeng4

Kai Tak Airport (Chinese: 啟德機場; Jyutping: kai2 dak1 gei1 coeng4) was the international airport of Hong Kong from 1925 until 1998. It was officially known as the Hong Kong International Airport (Chinese: 香港國際機場; Jyutping: hoeng1 gong2 gwok3 zai3 gei1 coeng4) from 1954 to 6 July 1998, when it was closed and replaced by the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok, 30 km to the west.[1] It is often known as Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport (Chinese: 香港啟德國際機場; Jyutping: hoeng1 gong2 kai2 dak1 gwok3 zai3 gei1 coeng4), or simply Kai Tak, to distinguish it from its successor which is often referred to as Chek Lap Kok Airport (Chinese: 赤鱲角機場; Jyutping: cek3 laap6 gok3 gei1 coeng4).

With numerous skyscrapers and mountains located to the north and its only runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, landings at the airport were dramatic to experience and technically demanding for pilots. The History Channel program Most Extreme Airports ranked it as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world.[2]

The airport was home to Hong Kong's international carrier Cathay Pacific, as well as regional carrier Dragonair, freight airline Air Hong Kong and Hong Kong Airways. The airport was also home to the former RAF Kai Tak.

Contents

Geographic environment

The airport was surrounded by high rise buildings. The airport car park is at the centre, and offices are on the right of the photograph.

Kai Tak was located on the west side of Kowloon Bay in New Kowloon, Hong Kong. The vicinity is surrounded by rugged mountains. Less than 10 km to the north and northeast is a range of hills reaching an altitude of 2,000 ft (610 m). To the east of the runway, the hills are fewer than 5 km away. Immediately to the south of the airport is Victoria Harbour, and further south is Hong Kong Island with hills up to 2,100 ft (640 m).

When Kai Tak closed there was only one runway in use, numbered 13/31 and oriented southeast/northwest (134/314 degrees true, 136/316 degrees magnetic). The runway was made by reclaiming land from the harbour and had been extended several times since its initial construction. The runway was 3,390 m long when the airport closed.

At the northern end of the runway, buildings rose up to six stories just across the road. The other three sides of the runway were surrounded by Victoria Harbour. The low altitude maneuver required to line up with the runway was so spectacular that some passengers claimed to have glimpsed the flickering of televisions through apartment windows along the final approach.

History

RAF Short Sunderlands and a Douglas Dakota at Kai Tak Airport, c.1946

1920s to 1930s

The story of Kai Tak started in 1922 when two businessmen Ho Kai and Au Tak formed the Kai Tak Investment Company in order to reclaim land in Kowloon for development.[3] The land was acquired by the government for use as an airfield after the business plan failed.[4]

In 1924, Harry Abbott opened The Abbott School of Aviation on the piece of land.[5] Soon, it became a small grass strip airport for the RAF and several flying clubs which, over time, grew to include the Hong Kong Flying Club, the Far East Flying Training School, and the Aero Club of Hong Kong which exist today as an amalgamation known as the Hong Kong Aviation Club. In 1928, a concrete slipway was built for seaplanes that used the adjoining Kowloon Bay which can be seen in old photographs.[1] The first control tower and hangar at Kai Tak were built in 1935. In 1936, the first domestic airline in Hong Kong was established.[citation needed]

World War II

Hong Kong fell into the hands of the Japanese in 1941 during World War II. In 1942 the Japanese army expanded Kai Tak, using many Allied prisoners of war (POW) labourers,[6] creating two concrete runways, 13/31 and 07/25. Numerous POW diary entries exist recalling the grueling work and long hours working on building Kai Tak.[7] During the process, its construction destroyed the historic wall of the Kowloon Walled City, as well as the 45 m (148 ft) tall Sung Wong Toi — a memorial for the last Song dynasty emperor, for materials.[8] A 2001 Environmental Study recommended a new memorial be erected for the Sung Wong Toi rock and other remnants of the Kowloon area before Kai Tak.[9]

1940s to 1970s

From September 1945 to August 1946 it was a Royal Navy shore base "HMS Nabcatcher"[10] the name previously attached to a Mobile Naval Air Base for the Fleet Air Arm. On 1 April 1947 a Royal Navy air station HMS Flycatcher was commissioned there.[11]

An official plan to modify Kai Tak to a modern airport was released in 1954.[1] By 1957 runway 13/31 had been extended to 1664 m while runway 7/25 remained 1450 m;[12] BOAC started flying Bristol Britannia 102s into the airport that year, probably the largest airliner ever to use the old airport. In 1958 the new NW/SE 2542 m runway extending into the Kowloon Bay was completed by land reclamation. The runway was extended to 3390 m in 1975. In 1962, the passenger terminal was completed.[1]

An Instrument Guidance System (IGS) was installed in 1974 to aid landing on runway 13. Utilisation of the airport under adverse conditions was greatly increased.

Overcrowding in the 1980s and 1990s

The growth of Hong Kong also put a strain on the airport's capacity. Its usage was close to, and for some time exceeded, the designed capacity. The airport was designed to handle 24 million passengers per year but in 1996, Kai Tak handled 29.5 million passengers, plus 1.56 million tonnes of freight, making it the third busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic, and first in terms of international cargo throughput.[1] Moreover, clearance requirements for aircraft takeoffs and landings made it necessary to limit the height of buildings that could be built in Kowloon. While Kai Tak was initially located far away from residential areas, the expansion of both residential areas and the airport resulted in Kai Tak being close to residential areas. This caused serious noise pollution for nearby residents.[13] A night curfew from midnight to about 6:30 in the early morning also hindered operations.[14]

As a result, in the late 1980s, the Hong Kong Government began searching for alternative locations for a new airport in Hong Kong to replace the aging airport. After deliberating on a number of locations, including the south side of Hong Kong Island, the government decided to build the airport on the island of Chek Lap Kok off Lantau Island. A huge number of resources were mobilised to build this new airport, part of the ten programmes in Hong Kong's Airport Core Programme.

Closure and Legacy of Kai Tak Airport

The new airport officially opened on 6 July 1998. In a testament to logistical planning, all essential airport supplies and vehicles that were left in the old airport for operation (some of the non-essential ones had already been transported to the new airport) were transported to Chek Lap Kok in one early morning with a single massive move. Kai Tak was subsequently closed, transferring its ICAO and IATA airport codes to the replacement airport at Chek Lap Kok.

On 6 July 1998 at 01:28, after the last aircraft departed for Chek Lap Kok, Kai Tak was finally retired as an airport. After 77 years of breathtaking landings, the final entries made in the control tower log book were simple, short and un-ceremonial:

  • The last arrival: Dragonair KA841 from Chongqing (A320-200) landed runway 13 at 23:38
  • The last scheduled commercial flight: Cathay Pacific CX251 to London Heathrow (B747-400) took off from runway 13 at 00:02
  • The last departure: Cathay Pacific CX3340 ferry flight to the new Chek Lap Kok Airport (A340-300) took off from runway 13 at around 01:05

A small ceremony celebrating the end of the airport was held inside the control tower after the last flight took off. A small speech was given, and the controller's last words as he switched off the runway lights were simply, "Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you".

The passenger terminal was later used for government offices, automobile dealerships and showrooms, a go-kart racecourse, a bowling alley, a snooker hall, a golf range and other recreational facilities. Government reports later revealed that Chek Lap Kok airport was not completely ready to be opened to the public despite trial runs held. Water supply and sewage were not installed completely. Telephones were available but the lines were not connected. The baggage system did not undergo extensive troubleshooting and passenger baggage as well as cargo, much of which was perishable, were lost. The government decided to temporarily reactivate Kai Tak's cargo terminal to minimise the damage caused by a software bug in the new airport's cargo handling system.[15] The runway was also used as a venue for Celine Dion's 25 January 1999 concert on her Let's Talk About Love Tour.[16]

Between December 2003 and January 2004, the passenger terminal was demolished. Many aviation enthusiasts were upset at the demise of Kai Tak because of the unique runway 13 approach. As private aviation was no longer allowed at Chek Lap Kok (having moved to Sek Kong Airfield), some enthusiasts had lobbied to keep around 1 km of the Kai Tak runway for general aviation, but the suggestion was rejected as the Government had planned to build a new cruise terminal at Kai Tak.[17]

The name Kai Tak is one of the names submitted by Hong Kong used in the lists of tropical cyclone names in the northwest Pacific Ocean.

Operations

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 landing at Kai Tak Airport runway 13
Airport forecourt

Terminal

The Kai Tak airport consisted of a linear terminal building with a car park attached at the rear. There were eight boarding gates attached to the terminal building.[15]

Airlines based at Kai Tak

Several airlines were based at Kai Tak:

Other tenants included:

Runway 13 approach

Layout of Kai Tak Airport prior to its 1998 closure
The "Checkerboard Hill", which was a major navigational aid for the Runway 13 approach, as seen from Kowloon Tsai Park.

The landing approach using runway 13 at Kai Tak was spectacular and world-famous. To land on runway 13, an aircraft first took a descent heading northeast. The aircraft would pass over the crowded harbour, and then the very densely populated areas of Western Kowloon. This leg of the approach was guided by an IGS (Instrument Guidance System, a modified ILS) after 1974.

Upon reaching a small hill marked with a checkerboard in red and white, used as a visual reference point on the final approach (in addition to the middle marker on the Instrument Guidance System), the pilot needed to make a 47° visual right turn to line up with the runway and complete the final leg. The aircraft would be just two nautical miles (3.7 km) from touchdown, at a height of less than 1,000 feet (300 m) when the turn was made. Typically the plane would enter the final right turn at a height of about 650 feet (200 m) and exit it at a height of 140 feet (43 m) to line up with the runway. This manoeuver has become widely known in the piloting community as the "Hong Kong Turn" or "Checkerboard Turn".

Landing the runway 13 approach was already difficult with normal crosswinds since even if the wind direction was constant, it was changing relative to the aeroplane during the 47° visual right turn. The landing would become even more challenging when crosswinds from the northeast were strong and gusty during typhoons. The mountain range northeast of the airport also makes wind vary greatly in both speed and direction. From a spectator's point of view, watching large Boeing 747s banking at low altitudes and taking big crab angles during their final approaches was quite thrilling. Despite the difficulty, the runway 13 approach was nonetheless used most of the time due to the prevailing wind direction in Hong Kong.

Due to the turn in final approach, ILS was not available for runway 13 and landings had to follow a visual approach. This made the runway unusable in low visibility conditions.

Runway 31 approach

Landings on runway 31 were just like those on other normal runways where ILS landing was possible. Since the taxiway next to the runway would have been occupied by aircraft taxiing for takeoff, landing traffic could only exit the runway right at the end.

Runway 31 departure

When lined up for takeoff on runway 31, Lion Rock and Beacon Hill would be right in front of the aircraft. The aircraft had to make a sharp 65-degree left turn soon after takeoff to avoid the hills (a reverse of what landing traffic would do on Runway 13). If runway change occurs (due to wind change) and the plane will need to switch from runway 13 departure to runway 31 departure, those planes that are loaded to max payload will need to return to the terminal to offload some goods in order to provide enough climbing clearance over the houses.

Accidents

Accidents at Kai Tak

  • 21 December 1948 - A Douglas DC-4 of Civil Air Transport struck Basalt Island after a descent through clouds. 33 were killed.[18]
  • 24 February 1949 - A Douglas DC-3 of Cathay Pacific crashed into a hillside near Braemar Reservoir after aborting an approach in poor visibility and an attempt to go around. All 23 onboard were killed.[19]
  • 11 March 1951 - A Douglas DC-4 of the Pacific Overseas Airlines crashed after takeoff into the hills between Mount Butler and Mount Parker on the Hong Kong Island. The Captain of the aircraft allegedly failed to execute the turn left operation after departure. 23 were killed.[20]
  • 9 April 1951 - A Douglas DC-3 of Siamese Airways lost control on its turn while attempting a night-time visual approach. The captain allegedly allowed the aircraft to lose flying speed while attempting to turn quickly. 16 were killed.[21]
  • Jan 1961 - A US military Douglas DC-3(C-47Dakota/skytrain) crashed on Mount Parker after takeoff.
  • 24 August 1965 - A US Marines Lockheed Hercules C-130 lost control shortly after takeoff from runway 13. The plane plunged and sank into the harbour. 59 of the 71 Marines on board were killed. This was the deadliest accident at Kai Tak.[22]
  • 30 June 1967 - A Thai Airways International Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III crashed into the sea while landing during a typhoon. The co-pilot, who was flying the aircraft, allegedly made an abrupt heading change, causing the aircraft to enter into a high rate of descent and a crash into the sea short of the runway. 24 were killed.[23]
  • 2 September 1977 - A Canadair CL-44 of Transmeridian Air Cargo lost control and crashed into the sea on fire shortly after takeoff. The no. 4 engine was said to have failed, causing an internal fire in the engine and the aircraft fuel system that eventually resulted in a massive external fire. 4 were killed.
  • 9 March 1978 - A hijacker boarded a China Airlines Boeing 737-200, demanding to be taken to China. The hijack lasted less than a day, and the hijacker was killed.[24]
  • 31 August 1988 - The right outboard flap of a Civil Aviation Administration of China Hawker Siddeley Trident hit approach lights of runway 31 while landing under rain and fog. The right main landing gear then struck a lip and collapsed, causing the aircraft to run off the runway and slip into the harbour. 7 were killed.[25]
  • 4 November 1993 - A China Airlines Boeing 747-400, China Airlines Flight 605, overran the runway while landing during a typhoon. The wind was gusting to gale force at the time. Despite the plane's unstable approach the captain did not go around. It touched down more than 2/3 down the runway and was unable to stop before the runway ran out.[26]
  • 23 September 1994 - A Heavylift Cargo Airlines Lockheed L-100-30 Hercules lost control shortly after takeoff from runway 13. The pitch control system of one of its propellers was said to have failed. 6 were killed.[27]

Accidents involving flights to and from Kai Tak

In addition, accidents and incidents of flights departing and arriving from Kai Tak include:

Incidents

  • Al-Qaeda's Ramzi Yousef had planned to blow up U.S. airliners from Kai Tak Airport as part of the Bojinka Plot.
  • 18 October 1983 - A Lufthansa Boeing 747 freighter abandoned takeoff after engine no. 2 malfunctioned, probably at speed exceeding V1 (the takeoff/abort decision point). The aircraft overran the runway onto soft ground and sustained severe damage. 3 were injured.[28]

Future plans for the site

2002 blueprint

In October 1998, the Government drafted a new plan for the old Kai Tak Airport site, involving a reclamation of 219 hectares. After receiving a large number of objections, the Government scaled down the reclamation to 166 hectares in June 1999. The Territorial Development Department of the Hong Kong SAR Government commenced a new study on the development of the area in November 1999, entitled "Feasibility Studies on the Revised Southeast Kowloon Development Plan", and a new public consultation exercise was conducted in May 2000, further scaling down the land reclamation to 133 hectares. The new plans based on the feasibility studies were passed by the Chief Executive in July 2002.[29] There were plans for the site of Kai Tak to be used for housing development, which was once projected to house around 240,000-340,000 residents. Due to calls from the public to protect the harbour and participate more deeply in future town planning, the scale and plan of the project are yet to be decided. There will also be a railway station and maintenance centre in the proposed plan for the Shatin to Central Link.

There were also proposals to dredge the runway to form several islands for housing, to build a terminal capable of accommodating cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, and more recently, to house the Hong Kong Sports Institute, as well as several stadiums, in the case that the institute was forced to move so that the equestrian events of the 2008 Summer Olympics could be held at its present site in Sha Tin.

On 9 January 2004 the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong ruled that no reclamation plan for Victoria Harbour could be introduced unless it passed an "overriding public interest" test.[30] Subsequently, the Government abandoned the plans proposed in July 2002.

Kai Tak Planning Review

The Government set up a "Kai Tak Planning Review" in July 2004 for further public consultation.[31] A number of blueprints have been presented.

June 2006 blueprint

A blueprint for the redevelopment of Kai Tak was issued by the government in June 2006. Under these proposals, hotels would be scattered throughout the 328-hectare site, and flats aimed at housing 86,000 new residents were proposed.

Other features of the plan include:

  • two cruise terminals
  • a giant stadium

October 2006 blueprint

The Planning Department unveiled a major reworking of its plans[32] for the old Kai Tak airport site on 17 October 2006, containing "a basket of small measures designed to answer a bevy of concerns raised by the public". The revised blueprint will also extend several "green corridors" from the main central park into the surrounding neighbourhoods of Kowloon City, Kowloon Bay and Ma Tau Kok.

The following features are proposed in the revised plan:

  • two cruise terminals, with a third terminal to be added if the need arises
  • a luxury hotel complex near the cruise terminals - the complex would sit about seven stories high, with hotel rooms atop commercial or tourist-related spaces
  • an eight-station monorail linking the tourist hub with Kwun Tong
  • a giant stadium
  • a "central park" to provide much-needed greenery
  • a 200-metre high public "viewing tower" near the tip of the runway
  • a new bridge likely to involve further reclamation of Victoria Harbour

The following are major changes:

  • hotel spaces are to be centralised near the end of the runway, and will face into the harbour towards Central
  • a third cruise terminal could be added at the foot of the hotel cluster if the need arises
  • a second row of luxury residential spaces facing Kwun Tong, built on an elevated terrace or platform to preserve a view of the harbour

The government has promised that:

  • the total amount of housing and hotel space will remain the same as proposed in June 2006
  • plot ratios will be the same as before
  • the total commercial space on the site will also remain about the same

The new bridge proposed by the government, joining the planned hotel district at the end of the runway with Kwun Tong, could be a potential source of controversy. Under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, no harbour reclamation can take place unless the Government can demonstrate to the courts an "overriding public need".[citation needed]

The new Kai Tak blueprint was presented to the Legislative Council on 24 October 2006 after review by the Town Planning Board.

See also


References

  1. ^ a b c d e Kai Tak Airport 1925-1998 - Civil Aviation Department
  2. ^ Most Extreme Airports; The History Channel; 26 August 2010
  3. ^ Kai Tak Airport History, Hong Kong ATC history, Munsang College history
  4. ^ Excerpt on Sir Kai Ho Kai
  5. ^ Hong Kong Aviation club Kai Tak History
  6. ^ Work on Kai Tak Airport 11 September 1942 Newspaper Clipping
  7. ^ Harry Atkinson,Thomas Smith Forsyth,Bernard Castonguay,Garfield Loew,John McGee Former POW's also recount their attempts to sabotage construction, which included mixing large amounts of clay with the concrete for the runways.
  8. ^ Hong Kong Tourist Association, "A MONUMENT RECORDING HISTORY: EMPEROR SUNG'S 'TERRACE'"
  9. ^ Kowloon Development Office
  10. ^ Royal Navy Archive
  11. ^ Kai Tak - Helicopter Database
  12. ^ The Aeroplane 2 Aug 1957
  13. ^ Aircraft Noise: Comparison Between Kai Tak and the new Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) - Civil Aviation Department
  14. ^ Official Record of Proceedings, Wednesday, 19 April 1995 - Hong Kong Legislative Council
  15. ^ a b Sung Hin-lun: A Hundred Years of Aviation in Hong Kong. ISBN 962-04-2188-4
  16. ^ "Celine Dion brings world tour to Shanghai _English_Xinhua". news.xinhuanet.com. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-01/17/content_7436062.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  17. ^ "Kai Tak Planning Review - Report of Stage 2 Public Participation: Outline Zone Plans" (PDF). Planning Department, the Government of HKSAR. Archived from the original on 2007-03-09. http://web.archive.org/web/20070309161043/http://www.pland.gov.hk/p_study/prog_s/sek_09/website_chib5_eng/english/Stage2_PP_Report_Eng.pdf. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  18. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19481221-0. 
  19. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19490224-0. 
  20. ^ "Accident Database". http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi-bin/view_details.cgi?date=03111951&reg=HS-POS&airline=Pacific+Overseas+Airlines. 
  21. ^ "Accident Database". http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi-bin/view_details.cgi?date=04091951&reg=HS-SAE&airline=Siamese+Airways. 
  22. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19650824-0. 
  23. ^ "Accident Database". http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi-bin/view_details.cgi?date=06301967&reg=HS-TGI&airline=Thai+International+Airways. 
  24. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19780309-0. 
  25. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19880831-1. 
  26. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19931104-0. 
  27. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19940923-0. 
  28. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19831018-0. 
  29. ^ Planning history of Kai Tak
  30. ^ "Judgement :Town Planning Board v Society for the Protection of the Harbour" (PDF). Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. http://www.hplb.gov.hk/reclamation/images/jr09012004.pdf. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  31. ^ "Kai Tak planning review". Government of the Hong Kong SAR. Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20060901023344/http://www.pland.gov.hk/p_study/prog_s/sek_09/website_chib5_eng/english/index.html. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  32. ^ Cheng, Jonathan (18 October 2006). "Kai Tak blueprint redrawn". Hong Kong Standard. http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=11&art_id=29690&sid=10421704&con_type=1&d_str=20061018&sear_year=2006#. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

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