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Where is kai tak?

2 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

Kai Tak Airport (IATA: HKG, ICAO: VHHH, VHHX) was the international airport of Hong Kong from 1925 until 1998. Officially known as Hong Kong International Airport from 1954 to 6 July 1998, it is often referred to as Hong Kong International Airport, Kai Tak, or simply Kai Tak and Kai Tak International Airport, to distinguish it from its successor, Chek Lap Kok International Airport, built on reclaimed and levelled land around the islands of Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau, 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the west.

Officially, Kai Tak Airport held the ICAO code of VHHH, but for logistical reasons during the transition to the new airport, it also temporarily used the ICAO code of VHHX, which is also the code used by the flight simulation community to virtually represent the airport.

Because of the geography of the area, by which water was on three sides of the runway, with Kowloon City's residential apartment complexes to the north-west and 2,000-plus ft (610 m-plus) mountains to the north-east of the airport, aircraft could not fly over the mountains and quickly drop in for a final approach. Instead, aircraft had to fly above Victoria Harbour and Kowloon City, passing north of Mong Kok's Bishop Hill. After passing Bishop Hill, pilots would see Checkerboard Hill with a large orange and white checkerboard pattern. Once the pattern was sighted and identified, aircraft made a low-altitude (sub-600 ft; 180 m) 47-degree right-hand turn, ending with a short final approach and touchdown. For pilots, this airport was technically demanding, as the approach could not be flown by aircraft instruments, but had to be flown visually because of the right-hand turn required. The History Channel programme Most Extreme Airports ranked it as the sixth-most dangerous airport in the world.

The airport was home to Hong Kong's international carrier Cathay Pacific, as well as regional carrier Dragonair (since 2016 known as Cathay Dragon), freight airline Air Hong Kong and Hong Kong Airways. The airport was also home to the former RAF Kai Tak and the Hong Kong Aviation Club.

Kai Tak was located on the eastern side of Kowloon Bay in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The area is surrounded by rugged mountains. Less than 4 km (2.5 mi) to the north and northeast of the former runway 13 threshold is a range of hills reaching an elevation of 2,000 ft (610 m). To the east of the former 31 threshold, the hills are less than 3 km (1.9 mi) away. Immediately to the south of the airport is Victoria Harbour, and farther 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 was extended several times after its initial construction. The runway was 2,529 m (8,297 ft) when it was opened in 1958 and 3,390 m (11,120 ft) long when the airport closed in 1998. Beforehand, in the period of 1945–1955 the airport used a different 13/31 alongside a crossing 07/25. These two runways were 1,450 by 70 m (4,756 by 231 ft) and 1,652 by 61 m (5,420 by 201 ft).

At the northern end of the runway at closure, buildings rose up to six stories just across a major multi-lane arterial road. The other three sides of the runway were surrounded by Victoria Harbour. The low-altitude turning manoeuvre before the shortened final approach was so close to these buildings that passengers could spot television sets in the apartments: " the plane banked sharply to the right for landing ... the people watching television in the nearby apartments seemed an unsettling arm's length away."

The story of Kai Tak started in 1912 when two businessmen, Ho Kai and Au Tak, formed the Kai Tak Investment Company to reclaim land in Kowloon for development. The land was acquired by the government for use as an airfield after the business plan failed.

In 1924, Harry Abbott opened the Abbott School of Aviation on that piece of land. Soon, it became a small grass strip runway airport used by the RAF, and by 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; these 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. The first control tower and hangar at Kai Tak were built in 1935. In 1936, the first domestic airline in Hong Kong was established.

Hong Kong fell into the hands of the Japanese on December 12 1941 during World War II. In 1942, the Japanese army expanded Kai Tak, using many Allied prisoner-of-war (POW) labourers, building two concrete runways, 13/31 and 07/25. Numerous POW diary entries exist recalling the gruelling work and long hours working on building Kai Tak. During the process, the historic wall of the Kowloon Walled City and the 45-metre (148 ft) tall Sung Wong Toi, a memorial for the last Song dynasty emperor, were destroyed for materials. A 2001 Environmental Study recommended that a new memorial be erected for the Sung Wong Toi rock and other remnants of the Kowloon area before Kai Tak.

From September 1945 to August 1946 the airport was a Royal Navy shore base, "HMS Nabcatcher", the name previously attached to a Mobile Naval Air Base for the Fleet Air Arm. On 1 April 1947, a Royal Naval Air Station, HMS Flycatcher, was commissioned there.

A plan to turn Kai Tak into a modern airport was released in 1954. By 1957 runway 13/31 had been extended to 1,664 metres (5,459 ft), while runway 7/25 remained 1,450 metres (4,760 ft) long; night operations were not allowed. Bristol Britannia 102s took over BOAC's London-Tokyo flights in summer 1957 and were the largest airliners scheduled to the old airport (Boeing Stratocruisers never flew there). In 1958 the new NW/SE 2,550-metre (8,350 ft) runway extending into Kowloon Bay was completed by land reclamation. The two old runways were removed with footprint used by apron and terminal building. The passenger terminal was completed in 1962. The runway was extended in the mid-1970s to 3,390 metres (11,130 ft), the final length. This extension was completed in June 1974, but the full length of the runway was not in use until 31 December 1975, as construction of the new Airport Tunnel had kept the northwestern end of the runway closed.

In 1955 Kai Tak Airport featured in the film "The Night My Number Came Up."

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

In the 1970s an aircraft crash called attention to the potential loss of life in the high-density residential developments around the airport, though there were no serious accidents.

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 busiest in terms of international cargo throughput. 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 and engine pollution for nearby residents and put height restrictions, which were removed after Kai Tak closed. A night curfew from 11:30 pm to 6:30 am in the early morning also hindered operations.

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. The new airport is located far away from Hong Kong's main residential areas, conducive to minimising the dangers of a major crash and also reducing the nuisance of noise pollution. A huge number of resources were mobilised to build this new airport, part of the ten programmes in Hong Kong's Airport Core Programme.

The Regal Meridien Hong Kong Airport Hotel (now the Regal Oriental Hotel), linked to the passenger terminal by a footbridge spanning Prince Edward Road, opened on 19 July 1982. This was Hong Kong's first airport hotel, and comprised 380 rooms including 47 suites. The hotel still exists, but the footbridge (which was connected to the passenger terminal) has been demolished. It is one of the few remaining buildings related to Kai Tak Airport.

The new airport officially opened on 6 July 1998 to replace the functions of Kai Tak Airport. All of the 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, with a police escort.

On 6 July 1998 at 01:28, after the very final last aircraft departed for Chek Lap Kok, Kai Tak was finally retired as an airport. The very final last flights were:

A ceremony celebrating the end of the airport was held inside the control tower after the last flight took off. Richard Siegel, then-director of civil aviation, gave a brief speech ending with the words "Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you", before dimming the lights briefly and then turning them off.

After the very final last plane or very final last commercial flight, a Cathay Pacific A340-300, took off from Kai Tak International Airport to the new Hong Kong International Airport at 01:28 HKT, Kai Tak was closed, transferring its ICAO and IATA airport codes to the replacement airport at Chek Lap Kok.

The new airport at Chek Lap Kok opened at 06:00 (6:00am) on 6 July 1998 with the arrival of Cathay Pacific Flight 889 (nicknamed Polar 1) from New York. The very first week of operations was disrupted by a sequence of IT failures based around software bugs in the Flight Information Display System. This in turn disrupted baggage handling and airbridge allocation. But by the end of the first week these challenges, and other teething problems, were largely resolved, the new airport was exceeding Kai Tak performance measures. The exception was the new airport's main air cargo terminal built and operated by HACTL as a franchisee. The terminal faced major difficulties in coming into operation on 6 July, such that it closed again on 7 July to enable the franchisee to implement a major recovery programme. The disruption this caused to air cargo operations at the new airport led the government to temporarily reactivate for a month Kai Tak's cargo terminal. During this period, the airport was given temporary ICAO code VHHX.

The Kai Tak passenger terminal later housed government offices, automobile dealerships and showrooms, gaming arcades, a mall, a go-kart racecourse, a bowling alley, a snooker hall, a mini-golf range and other recreational facilities. In the mid 2000s, the passenger terminal and hangars were 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 about 1 km (0.62 mi) 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.

The Hong Kong stop of Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love World Tour was held on the airport's tarmac on 25 January 1999.

Until its retirement in 2018, the name Kai Tak was one of the names used in the lists of tropical cyclone names in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Submitted by Hong Kong, it was used four times.

BMW also used to test its hydrogen cars on the former Kai Tak apron area, while a golf course was set up at the end of Runway 31.

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

A freight terminal was located on the south side of the east apron and diagonally from the passenger terminal building.

Due to the limited space, the fuel tank farm was located between the passenger terminal and HAECO maintenance facilities (hangar).

Several airlines were based at Kai Tak:

Other tenants included:

The landing approach for planes using runway 13 at Kai Tak was considered spectacular and was infamous, not just amongst aviation enthusiasts but amongst the general public as well. Flight sim charts, which are based on the real charts used on the airport, give an outline on the procedures used on approach into Kai Tak Airport.

The Checkerboard approach (also spelled as Chequerboard approach) initially begins to the south-west of the airport, with aircraft flying westbound at a minimum altitude of 6000 feet. At this beginning stage of the approach, the aircraft should be passing above Cheung Chau – a small island just off Lantau Island. After that, the aircraft was required to proceed up to "Point Golf", which was on the south side of Lantau Island and directly south of the current Chek Lap Kok Airport. Approaching aircraft then had to make a right-hand U-turn in order to intercept the localiser for the Runway 13 IGS, which generally happened above the current Chek Lap Kok Airport site. The IGS was, in essence, a heavily modified Instrument landing system (ILS) system designed uniquely for Kai Tak Airport, otherwise functioning identical to a normal ILS. At roughly 2500 feet, the autopilot was disconnected, and the rest of the approach was flown manually. The aircraft then descended below 1000 feet and shortly afterwards reached Kowloon Tsai Park and its small hill (Checkerboard Hill). Upon reaching the small hill above Kowloon Tsai Park, which was painted with a large "aviation orange" and white checkerboard (22°20′06″N 114°11′04″E / 22.33500°N 114.18444°E / 22.33500; 114.18444 (Checkerboard Hill)), 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 2 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. That demanding manoeuvre became known in the aviation community as the "Hong Kong Turn" or the "Checkerboard Turn". For many airline passengers on planes approaching and landing on Runway 13 at Kai Tak Airport, it became referred to as the "Kai Tak Heart Attack", because they were often frightened to be turning at such a close proximity to the ground, which, at less than 150 ft, or 45 metres, was generally less than even the Boeing 767's wingspan, which is considered a medium-size airliner. The turn was so low that passengers could see television sets running in people's residences near the airport.

Handling the runway 13 approach was difficult enough with normal crosswinds because, even if the wind direction was constant, it was changing relative to the aircraft as the plane made the 47° visual right turn, meaning that what would be a headwind heading directly east on the IGS would become a crosswind and begin to push the aircraft over and off the runway alignment without correction. The landing would become even more challenging when crosswinds from the north-east were strong and gusty during typhoons. The mountain range north-east of the airport also made the wind vary greatly in both speed and direction. Watching large aircraft banking at low altitudes and taking big crab angles during their final approaches was popular with plane spotters. Despite the difficulty, the runway 13 approach was used most of the time due to the prevailing wind direction in Hong Kong.

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

Alongside the Chequerboard approach, there was a lesser known approach into Kai Tak that led aircraft over the Stonecutters' NDB at a heading of 040 and led into a ~90° turn to line up on Runway 13. This approach was used extremely infrequently, since the Chequerboard approach had a localiser and glide slope to work off of, and NDBs are very rarely used in commercial aviation today. It generally can be assumed this approach was used when the localiser and glide slope were offline for maintenance.

Runway 13 was the preferred departure runway for heavy aircraft due to the clear departure path, opposite that of the runway 31 departure. Heavy aircraft on departure using runway 13 would often need nearly the entire length of the runway, particularly during summer days due to the air temperature.

Runway 31 approaches and landings were similar to other airports in which ILS was available. Runways 13 and 31 are, in fact, the same physical runway, however if a flight is landing on Runway 13 that means that the aircraft is flying in on a south-easterly direction, while a flight landing on Runway 31 would be coming in a north-westerly direction. This applies for flights taking off on runways 13 and 31 – a flight departing from runway 13 would be heading south-east, and vice versa. This is because runways are named for their magnetic heading in decadegrees, which means that a runway oriented anywhere between 125° and 134° magnetic would be numbered 13, and vice versa. The path towards the runway passed within 300 metres (980 ft) to the north of Heng Fa Chuen on Hong Kong Island.

Runway 31 was also used for landing early in the morning for noise abatement.

When lined up for takeoff on runway 31, a range of hills including 1,500 feet (460 m) 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 (i.e. the reverse of a Runway 13 landing). If a runway change occurred due to wind change from runway 13 departures to runway 31 departures, planes that were loaded to maximum payload for runway 13 departures had to return to the terminal to offload some goods to provide enough climbing clearance over buildings during a runway 31 departure.

The Hong Kong Aviation Club formerly held most of its activities at Kai Tak, where it had hangars and other facilities.

The club moved most of its aircraft to Shek Kong Airfield in 1994 after the hours for general aviation at Kai Tak were sharply reduced, to two hours per morning, as of 1 July that year. Kai Tak closed to fixed-wing traffic in 1998. The club ended its helicopter activities at Kai Tak on 9 July 2017. The Kai Tak location, which it was able to use all days of the week, meant that helicopter training took less time compared to fixed-wing training, as usage at Shek Kong is restricted to weekends.

Many planes crashed at Kai Tak due to poor weather and hard approaches:

In October 1998, the Government drafted a plan for the Kai Tak Airport site, involving the reclamation of 219 hectares (540 acres) of land. After receiving many objections, the Government scaled down the reclamation to 166 hectares (410 acres) in June 1999. The Territorial Development Department 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, resulting in the land reclamation being further scaled down to 133 hectares (330 acres). The new plans based on the feasibility studies were passed by the chief executive in July 2002. 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 were yet to be decided. There were also plans for a railway station and maintenance centre in the proposed plan for the Sha Tin 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 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 ruled that no reclamation plan for Victoria Harbour could be introduced unless it passed an "overriding public interest" test. Subsequently, the Government abandoned these plans.

The Government set up a "Kai Tak Planning Review" in July 2004 for further public consultation. A number of plans were presented.

A new plan 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 (810-acre) site, and flats aimed at housing 86,000 new residents were proposed.

Other features of the plan included two cruise terminals and a large stadium.

The Planning Department unveiled a major reworking of its plans 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:

The following are major changes:

The government has promised that:

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".

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

In 2011, with most of the former Kai Tak area still abandoned, ideas were floated to develop the area for commercial property, citing shortages of office space and rising property costs. In June 2013, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal was opened on the tip of the former runway. Two public housing estates opened on the northeast area of the site in 2013, providing over 13,000 new rental flats. As of 2018, the public estates have been joined by some private residential developments, now nearing completion.

A small park and new hospital (Hong Kong Children's Hospital) have also opened.

A new Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station, Kai Tak, opened on the former airport land in early 2020. Another station, Sung Wong Toi, was opened in June 2021.

Construction of the Kai Tak Sports Park on the former airport land has also commenced in April 2019. Once completed, Kai Tak Sports Park will be the largest sports venue in Hong Kong and will include a 50,000 seat Main Stadium, an Indoor Sports Center, a Public Sports Ground and multiple open spaces.

Kai Tak Sky Garden, a massive elevated garden, opened in May 2021. It occupies part of the former runway and apron.

Nia Jaquet
Natural Science
Answer # 2 #

The site of the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport – famous for its notoriously challenging runway in the middle of the busy city center – is set to welcome a new sky-high landmark.

Prior to the Kowloon-based airport’s closure in 1997 – it was replaced by the current Hong Kong International Airport – buildings constructed in the area had to adhere to strict height restrictions to ensure the safety of the facility.

That’s what makes this new skyscraper all the more exciting. Standing at 200 meters above ground, when completed in 2022 Airside will become the tallest landmark occupying the old airport land.

As well as breathing new life into a part of Hong Kong that has been largely undeveloped since the airport’s closure, it will no doubt stir some nostalgia for the days when gigantic airplanes would be photographed descending through the city’s residential tower blocks.

The 47-story mixed-used skyscraper is the first Hong Kong project by Norwegian design studio Snøhetta, the creative mind behind jaw-dropping designs including Norway’s otherworldly planetarium and “constellation” lodges as well as Europe’s first underwater restaurant.

While a shiny new building isn’t likely to draw comparisons to the gray boxy structure of Kai Tak’s terminal, the team behind it say they took note of the airport’s vertiginous landing descent when considering their design and wanted to pay homage to its dramatic aviation heritage.

The project, with an investment of HKD 32 billion ($4.12 billion) will comprise an office building and a retail complex under the concept of “wholeness.”

“Whilst respecting the historical context of the site, our initial concepts for the development took inspiration in the diversity of commercial, recreational and retail functions and the opportunity this gave to generate a series of rich and interactive public spaces throughout the development,” Robert Greenwood, Snøhetta’s managing director in Asia, tells CNN Travel.

“This approach led us to a hybrid solution for the tower – no longer the traditional tower and podium but a composition of elements combining to form a holistic urban structure, connecting the ground to the sky.”

The complex features a balanced range of activities and infrastructure including office space, a retail complex, art and dining offerings, along with plenty of greenery and outdoor space.

A cascading, green open-air rooftop and terraces will take up about a third of the site area. The multi-story 700,000-square-feet shopping mall will offer an experiential retail space and world-class restaurants, says the developer.

Sustainability plays a major role in the design, too.

There will be a sky farm, natural ventilation, an automated smart waste sorting and storage system and a water-saving and rainwater retention management plan. It’ll also be home to the city’s first automatic bicycle parking bay.

The different design elements of the complex pay tribute to the site’s aviation past.

“During our research we were impressed by the images of the dramatic landings that took place at the former Kai Tak airport,” says Greenwood.

“In the design process, it was important to us to be respectful of and contribute to the preservation of the collective memory of many Hongkongers. The vast retail arcade space at Airside draws parallels to the typology of the airport terminal through its impressive scale and openness.”

The structure is filled with natural daylight whereas the exterior plazas and public rooftop gardens offer views over the city – “much like the visual impressions from the famous takeoff and landing experiences of the original airport.”

Nan Fung Development Limited, the local developer of the project and one of the largest privately-held conglomerates in Hong Kong, also loaned inspiration to the design.

Founded in the 1950s, it was the city’s largest yarn-spinning business. As a nod to this history, Snøhetta has blended in designs that acknowledge the company’s role in Hong Kong’s textile manufacturing as well as the city’s industrial past.

“ examples of textile references are the weaved office lobby chandelier wrapping around the office lobby stone pleats, the fluted glass façade, whose panels in different radii are organized in a stylized drapery, or the stone pavers of the public plazas whose different tones form a crest like pattern that invites its users inside,” says Greenwood.

Spanning 1.9 million square feet, the skyscraper will be one of the latest landmarks of the Kai Tak Redevelopment projects – a plan to transform the former airport site into one of the biggest and the newest central business districts in Hong Kong.

Bresha Gayden
Chief Learning Officer