Friday, May 27, 2011

Kai Tac Airport

Kai Tac Airport was Hong Kong's International Airport from 1925 to 1998.  It was ranked as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world. I copied the following which explains why it was so dangerous.

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 maneuver 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.


I took all these pictures off the net as of course l don't have any of the old days!   Blaine met an old fellow who has lived here all his life and he said the noise was unbelievable.  It must have been an awful place to live with planes almost on top of you.
They say you could see the people in the flats as you flew past!
 This picture was taken almost right where our building stands.  Of course none of these old ones are here now as Sky Tower was built on the site, but there are still a lot of the old grungy buildings in this part of Kowloon.
This is looking straight out our balcony door.  The narrow building to the left of the big high rise, with the design that looks like black bars with an  umbrella on top, is the same one right below the tail of the plane in the above picture.
 There were of course some accidents. This plane  apparently landed 2/3 down the runway during a typhoon and just kept going! I can see why, as some days the clouds are so low, and the crosswinds must have been something when landing.

Doesn't look long enough to land does it!  The runway was 3,390 m long when it closed, and had been lengthened a few times by reclaiming land.

I think this road is the same  today and where the white bus is, it's still a bus stop.
This is what the checkerboard looked like back then.
This is what it looks like today.  The pink building is still there although it looks somewhat less pink!  I think it is a hospital.  Not very conducive to having a good sleep with planes screaming overhead!

The checkerboard is just to the left of the picture, and the terminal used to be about where the cricket field is now.  I think the new MTR is going in just in front of the red and white fence in the middle of the picture.  It will be a great to have, because there is no MTR in this part of the city and it will link up with the rest of the city.
In the paper last week there was an article and picture of a walkway and bridge that had been built in the Quing dynasty.  It was used by the officials and was part of a walkway from the pier to the offices they used in Kowloon City.  We've been trying to figure out where in this area they took the picture from but haven't been able to find it.  It probably has been covered up.  They are going to incorporate it into the plans somehow so it will be on display when this area is all rebuilt.  They have plans for two stadiums, parks, and some housing.  The runway will be a dock for cruise ships.  Some of it will open in 2016.
Too bad that window blocks the corner of the runway, but you can get an idea of how the area looks today. 

These are artist conceptions of what the new cruise terminal might look like.  I don't know if a total plan has actually been chosen yet .  What ever it ends up being it will probably be as fantastic as other building projects they have here!!

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