Amazing pics of old Hong Kong airport

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Amazing pics of old Hong Kong airport

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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.


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.


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.


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."




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.


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."


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."


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.


One of the most beautiful sights at Kai Tak -- Air France's retired Concorde makes an elegant takeoff.


Not a common sight elsewhere -- a passenger jet flies above bamboo scaffolding and TV antennae.


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.


"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.


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.


Kai Tak's observatory deck? Nope, it's the old airport's car park on the last day of operations in 1998.



























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Kai Tak, Hong Kong's former airport, set to reopen as Kai Tak Cruise Terminal
Closed in 1998, Kai Tak was one of world's most challenging airports for pilots
Former Cathay Pacific pilot recalls unique 45-degree turn when landing at Kai Tak
Many pilots aborted first landing attempts during bad weather and swung around for another nervy go



(CNN) -- "Goodbye Kai Tak and thank you."
Some 15 years after Richard Siegel, Hong Kong's then-director of Civil Aviation, bid farewell and turned off the lights at Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport (Kai Tak), the old airport has been given a new life.
With official ceremonies set for this week, it will be rechristened Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. The new facility will accommodate cruise ships and other large vessels.
Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, will be the first ship to arrive at the cruise ship berth -- formerly runway 13 -- today at 8 p.m.
Before its closure in 1998, Kai Tak (the first recorded flight from the site took place in 1925) was regarded as one of the most difficult airports in the world for pilots to fly in and out of.
Sitting in the middle of Kowloon City, with a runway protruding into the sea, landing in Kai Tak was a hair-raising event even for experienced pilots.
Now Cathay Pacific Airways' general manager of operations, former pilot Russell Davie has 36 years of flying experience.
He remembers Kai Tak fondly.
"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 checkerboard as you made that final turn toward the runway," he says.
Daryl Chapman, a schoolteacher and aviation photographer from Britain who has lived in Hong Kong since 1987, spent countless hours photographing the amazing scenes of large aircraft swooping in over the Hong Kong skyline. (See gallery of his work above.)
"Kai Tak was very different to most international airports because it was right in the city," recalls Chapman. "Lion Rock [a prominent hill in Hong Kong] blocks the standard straight-in approach, thus planes had to make that special turn over Kowloon City while landing on runway 13."
"This was quite a challenge, especially in strong wind conditions," says Davie. "As Cathay pilots, we had plenty of practice and became very adept at flying the approach.
"The approach was quite a challenge for pilots from other airlines, especially in more demanding flying conditions, as they might only come to Kai Tak once a year."
World's most 'thrilling' airports, where thrilling = terrifying
Scariest moment: "We never saw the actual plane!"
Chapman recalls watching flights landing at Kai Tak during those "demanding flying conditions."
"Being at the Kai Tak car park watching airplanes land in heavy rain could be very worrying," he says. "The pilots could not see the runway and landing over Kowloon you had to be visual with the runway.
"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."
The scariest memory for Chapman was the landing of an Air France 747-200 freighter contending with an extremely low ceiling.
"We could hear it coming but saw no sign of the landing lights -- it was dark," he says. "It got louder and louder then you could see the glow of the red beacon under the plane. He overshot the turn and went right over the car park and control tower as he powered up and went around for another try."
"That was very loud and worrying, as we never saw the actual plane!"
Fond memories of Kai Tak
Although today's much larger and more modern Hong Kong International Airport (which opened in July 1998) is considered one of the best airports in the world, Kai Tak is still missed in some quarters.
It served Hong Kong for 73 years and was something of a city symbol, known to travelers worldwide.
"I have very fond memories of Kai Tak," says Davie. "When I first joined Cathay Pacific, I spent many happy hours walking around Kowloon City every time I had a visitor in town, watching the aircraft fly low over the houses and shops.
"The approach looked really amazing from the ground, and also as a passenger, especially if you were seated on the right-hand side of the aircraft."
Davie's favorite route was arriving from Japan or Taiwan, northeast of Hong Kong.
"This allowed the pilot to fly the aircraft initially along the East Lamma shipping channel before turning around the end of Hong Kong Island past Green Island and heading toward the checkerboard to make the final approach," he remembers.
"Passengers lucky enough to have a window seat had a fantastic view of the south side of Hong Kong island then Central and the harbor before landing over Kowloon."

Source: Amazing pics of old Hong Kong airport
 

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