View Full Version : Kai Tak Airport

25th Nov 2004, 13:23
I've recently had a "warm" discussion about the approach to Kai Tak. I said that I remembered seeing people working in the fields on the aircraft's port side as it descended. These workers were level with the aircraft ( Brittania) or even above. I know that the final part of the approach was quite hairy being in close proximity to the buildings etc. but am I remembering correctly (it was a long time ago!)about seeing those workers out of the cabin window? Or am I going to have to apologise?

25th Nov 2004, 14:04
I dont remember being that close to the hills but you could easily spot which appartments had the TV set on at night!

Also I never remember ever seeing the airport during the approach...... the last thing you saw was the parking lot.

25th Nov 2004, 14:58
A great and exciting place it was! (http://www.alexisparkinn.com/photogallery/Videos/Boeing%20747%20Extreme%20Landing.mpg) :uhoh:

But I do not remember fields at eye level.
Balconies yes. But no fields.

25th Nov 2004, 15:09
Depends how far back you go! The airport used to be grass and consisted of the much smaller area that eventually became the terminal and the main apron. Runways were laid in the 1950s and the sea reclamation for runways 31/13 was built quite some time later. It's quite likely that it was possible to see workers in the adajacent fields at one time. In recent times it became very difficult to see workers in ANY field as the kids all left the villages for the big lights. A lot of the villages in the new territories are now abandoned, I used to enjoy exploring them, quite eerie when completely empty.

25th Nov 2004, 15:11
Yes, balconies I said! (http://www.cruisinaltitude.com/images/airports/hkg/kaitak/ba744hkgl.jpg)

25th Nov 2004, 17:34
No you are not mistaken. Those workers main job was to shake the wings around and push the planes off their approach-path.

25th Nov 2004, 18:39
Ok, thanks for the response. It was the mid sixties, probably 1965/6, and it was in a Bristol Brittania belonging to British Eagle. It seems as if it was not quite as I remembered it. Perhaps the Tiger beer had something to do with that!

26th Nov 2004, 05:10
As you approached the checkerboard prior to the sharp right turn onto runway 13, there were hills to the left of the approach with the hill tops at nearly the same height as the aircraft. At the time you are talking about, in the mid sixties, those hills were still rural and people would be visible working on the hillside. By the 80's even the steeper hillsides were being built on and it was balconies all the way down.

Here's a picture of Kai Tak (http://www.bywat.co.uk/hk1.jpg) taken in 1966, looking west from the south side of the ramp towards the runway. Note the absence of all those really high rise buildings that shot up in the late seventies and eighties.

Here's another (http://www.jetphotos.net/images/images3/r/runwayresized.jpg.57719.jpg) taken not long before Kai Tak closed. The checkerboard is just off the centre of the picture almost on an extended line from the taxiway. The buildings on the hill just beyond it, right in line with the extended runway centre-line, weren't there in the mid-sixties and local people would have been 'committing agriculture' there.

Pilots tended to fixate on the checkerboard (I wonder why?) and looking for the carpark (a turning cue) to their right, so they weren't likely to know much about what was happening off their port wingtip.

26th Nov 2004, 06:27
Four-Two ,

It might be that this is what you mean.

Checkerboard (http://www.cruisinaltitude.com/images/airports/hkg/kaitak/checkerbrd.jpg)

The site where I found this picture has used the following caption:
The famous Checker Board. Note: How many persons can be seen on the hill. This number grew as the day continued. The checker board is used as reference point by the pilots to begin their turn on final approach.

I can't really remember ever noticing the people, there's a bit more to do/look at at that stage!

And while I'm at it, here are some landing lights. (http://www.cruisinaltitude.com/images/airports/hkg/kaitak/lndglights.jpg)


Onan the Clumsy
26th Nov 2004, 14:57
Here's a smaller picture of the famous checkerboard



26th Nov 2004, 15:28
Thanks,IFTB and Blacksheep you've given me some hope that I haven't completely lost it.
I did a bit more searching and found there's lots about Kai Tak. It seemed to have many devotees.
One site quoted a pilot who said " It's not a dangerous approach, it just needed a lot of concentration." Of course I was a passenger so was able to gaze about while someone else did the worrying!
Here's some nice pictures (http://www.hang-out.co.uk/photos/kaitak.html) giving a flavour of the airport over time.
The picture in your link Blacksheep, of the Canberra, brought back memories because I was on detachment there myself with some Canberras in 1966.