View Full Version : KAI TAK

24th Nov 2013, 14:33
Watched a very interesting item on CNN today about Hong Kong. The former airport, Kai Tak. Has been turned into a modern cruise ship terminal.

I have wonderful memories of landing at that airport and it's great to see that it is still going to be used for travel albeit a lot slower and without the spectacular arrival.

The design looks really good and facilities second to none.

Flying Mechanic
25th Nov 2013, 10:22
Yes it's good to see it's been put to good use. The old flying club still exists, but now only helicopter training. There's about 10 choppers based there now. The approach area to the checkerboard and final is now littered with high rise buildings.

25th Nov 2013, 12:27
A while back, someone posted a pic of the chequerboard - very faded. But it did take much longer to resue the area than might have been expected from the usual speed of things in HKG.

25th Nov 2013, 15:04
That was probably me



1st Dec 2013, 10:15
There used to be a hotel called The Carlton on the hillside some way above the checkerboard. Back in 1968 Mrs TTN (or my fiancee as she then was) would sit on the terrace with a drink and I'd bore her by (mis) identifying the various types and carriers as they made their invariably spectacular approach to Kai Tak.

Amazed she ever married me!

1st Dec 2013, 19:03
Ah - Kai Tak! I watched it being built as a kid from my bedroom in a RN block of flats on Mt Austen above the Peak Tram. Had a flight in a Tiger Moth from the old RAF Kai Tak in 1958 which my Dad, an RN doctor, arranged. Travel to and from HK was via troopship (Nevasa and Oxfordshire). Initially it was DC 6 and 7s and once the new RW was open (1959?) in came Comets and B707s. School - KGV GS was out by Kai Tak - some journey from Mt Austen daily. I feel somehow connected to HK and Kai Tak in particular.
Must revisit some time now retirement beckons!

1st Dec 2013, 20:15
Last week on a slip in Hong Kong, I was looking from my hotel at where Kai Tak used to be and was remembering how it was in the late 50s to 60s. My father used to work for HAECO and quite often would take me to work. Always told not to touch anything, I would have a look around the aircraft whilst dad was working. A great time for a young lad in his early teens sitting up in the cockpit of various types including a USAF DC3, little did I know six years later I would be flying DC3s around the UK! I doubt it would happen now with today's security.
I started my aviation career at the Aero Club by getting my PPL in 68, it's hard to believe that 45 years have past. Landing off the IGS in later years was much more fun than landing at Chek Lap Kok!

mcdhu you and I were at KGV at the same time, it looks a little different these days.

1st Dec 2013, 21:50
When I was doing an IT project in HKG in 1994/95, I was staying Kowloon side (working in the container port at Kwai Chung).

One Sunday I took a long but planned walk from Kowloon under the flight path and followed the line up to the Chequer Board and then walked on down the flight line to the perimeter fence. Rode back on the bus. It was a great day.

3rd Dec 2013, 10:59
I used Kai Tak a lot in the 80s and 90s (and I also went to the Carlton). About that time China Airlines dropped a brand-new 747 into the harbour: the army had to blow the tail off with explosives as it was obstructing the runway. Shortly afterwards it was dragged out, and Kai Tak being the restricted size that it was, the only place to put it was almost outside the terminal. It made interesting viewing.........

3rd Dec 2013, 11:18
Checker Board Approach - during the final turn

You could tell if you were a bit low, late in the evenings, because the F/O could hear the clicking of the mahjong pieces from the upper floors of the blocks of flats. Did hear that occasionally a washing line was careless enough to get itself snatched by a wingtip. LFH

5th Dec 2013, 13:03
My one trip in was on a British Caledonian Airways (remember them) 747 in, I think, early 1988. Looking into people's windows during that final turn was an interesting experience. At that time, if I remember correctly, buildings in parts of Kowloon were limited in height because of the proximity to the approach. Is that still the case?

5th Dec 2013, 17:58
buildings in parts of Kowloon were limited in height because of the proximity to the approach.

As the final aircraft touched down at Kai Tak the builders moved in on the approach end.

5th Dec 2013, 18:06
I can well believe that.

5th Dec 2013, 18:49
buildings in parts of Kowloon were limited in height because of the proximity to the approach.

Also no flashing lights (eg, advertising) were allowed in its vicinity & around the harbour.

5th Dec 2013, 22:41
I was stationed at Kai Tak in 1977 and lived in Married Quarters at Sunderland Road Kowloon, which was right in front of the chequer board, our MQ's were 3 stories high, our kitchen faced up the IGS approach and as an a/c approached you could tell who the "local" pilots were as they would fly a slightly wider approach, whilst others would follow the IGS religiously. My 2 yr old daughter could soon spot the difference between a Tristar and a DC10 head on. I once flew in the RHKAAF Islander and was in the right hand seat for the landing, we were asked to "expedite" our landing and runway vacating, a heavy 4 jet was following.

In mid '78 we moved up to Sek Kong, missed Kowloon though.


6th Dec 2013, 06:42
Hazy memories of friends on my yacht after a Po Toi run drinking far too many PSMs and watching some of the last departures in July 98.

A cloudy day IIRC.

What a unique place and arrivals hall !

6th Dec 2013, 07:39
Was once in the cockpit of a 747 - flying spanner - when the captain flying the approach into Kai Tak lost it - our turn on to finals was a tight LEFT turn with the GPWS screaming 'sink rate',landed way down the runway and finally stopped on the piano keys at the far end.Scared me shitless as I was only a spectator watching what I knew to be a complete screw-up.

6th Dec 2013, 09:57
About a year after the airfield closed there was a programme on HK TV showing footage from a fixed camera showing some of the horrific arrivals at Kai Tak. One was a United Airlines 747 where the pilot unrolled 30 degrees of bank and kicked off 15 degrees of drift just before touchdown.

It must be on yutoob somewhere but I can't find it.

6th Dec 2013, 10:15
FED - The UA sounds to me like a masterly arrival in a typhoon ...

OTH, I think there are also one or two exciting videos ..... Misquote ....

".... where the pilot DIDN'T unroll 30 degrees of bank and DIDN'T kick off 15 degrees of drift just before touchdown." LFH

6th Dec 2013, 12:12
well, if you're into internet history too, there's this site (http://www.aviationpics.de/appr/app.htm), practically unchanged in fifteen years, with some good photos of Kai Tak podstrikes and miffed landings. And for exciting video, the Alitalia MD-11 is still a classic.


India Four Two
7th Dec 2013, 03:47
I still miss Kai Tak. Chep Lap Kok is boring!

I flew into Kai Tak about 50 times before it closed and I always arranged for a window seat on the right, for the spectacular view of Kowloon rooftops during the final descending turn.

On one flight in a CX 777 from Tokyo, I realized it would be my last flight into Kai Tak before it closed. So I gave my business card and PPL to the purser and I was subsequently invited to the flight deck for the landing.

The crew were a couple of friendly Brits with excellent CRM skills. The FO was the PNF so he gave me the safety briefing before descent - "... and if Pete here stuffs it up and we end up in the harbour, your life jacket is under your seat." No Asian power distance issues there!

The approach was spectacular as expected, but the thing that surprised me was the sight-picture as the main wheels touched down. I had previously seen landings from 737 jump seats and I knew the 777 cockpit height would be higher, but it felt to me like we were 100' up.

Anyone interested in Kai Tak should definitely listen to this Radio Clyde documentary:


Mr Mac
7th Dec 2013, 08:14
I also was lucky enough to do a cockpit landing at Kai Tak in the 1980,s in a Cathay 747. We landed just before a Typhoon closed the airport. I was told by the crew there was an award for the last plane in before a Typhoon shut the airport - I think it was a Gold plate from memory, and they were mildly annoyed that on this day there were 2nr A/C behind us so they would not qualify !. Maybe some CX / HK ATC guys could confirm this, as it was a long time ago. New airport is ok, but just not as dramatic, god I do miss that approach !.

Mr Mac

14th Dec 2013, 12:44
Great place, based there with Air Hong Kong with the 747 freighters for a couple of years, from before CX took over, when the company offices were a walk around to the other side of the runway!

19th Dec 2013, 11:14
I was on a BCAL flight in 1983. I was travelling with my wife of 6 weeks who was working down the back. While on a Dubai stopover I had chatted up the flight deck about the famous approach into Kai Tak. And so I was invited up. I was surprised to find another civilian up there. He announced he was BCAL security and was going to investigate a run of thefts from the bonded storage. Oh said I, surprised, " I thought you must be here because we are picking Princess Ann up in Dubai on the way back". Three heads nearly fell off their necks as they snapped round. Very disconcerting as the chequer board was looming large. I had picked up the info on a visit to the Flight ops office to get approval for the visit.

19th Dec 2013, 11:46
http://i750.photobucket.com/albums/xx147/Mal_Grosse/Checkerboard_zpsfb0b30be.jpg (http://s750.photobucket.com/user/Mal_Grosse/media/Checkerboard_zpsfb0b30be.jpg.html)

20th Dec 2013, 09:12
Wow! Fantastic picture. I could have been on that one......

20th Dec 2013, 10:29
Wow! Fantastic picture. I could have been on that one......

Or me.. :)

I miss that place a lot. Halcyon day's.....

18th Jan 2014, 18:51
Lots of up spoiler on the left wing so maybe they'd got it a bit wrong?

Terry Dactil
18th Jan 2014, 20:14
How about the turn is just finished and they prefer to have the wings level before touchdown :ugh:

18th Jan 2014, 20:48
Story that an RN Scimitar squadron flew ashore to Kai Tak in the early sixties. Only RAF Venoms base there. Squadron Leader challenged Squadron to drop a sonic boom on the airfield. Done and caused panic in Kowloon and many broken windows. RN in the clear as the RAF gentleman had authorised the flight.

23rd Jan 2014, 15:52
Done and caused panic in Kowloon and many broken windows

It was one hell of a bang. I was at school in Kowloon that day and the number of broken windows I saw in Waterloo Road later on was amazing!

We did think it was one of the new Hunters that caused it though.

24th Jan 2014, 21:31
Definitely a Scimitar from 804 Squadron ashore from HMS Hermes.