Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport

Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport used to be one of the busiest airports in the world. However, located in downtown Kowloon surrounded by dense high buildings and mountains and water, it was also one of the most dangerous airports in the world. And with only one airfield runway, it could not meet the increasing flights any more. At midnight on July 5, 1998, a new airport built in Chulocock Island, the current Hong Kong International Airport replaced Kai Tak Airport and Kai Tak was closed after serving the public for 73 years since 1925. After the glorious retirement of Kai Tak Airport, it was rebuilt into the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in June, 2013 after the government completed the renovation of some of the basic buildings. Kai Tak Cruise Terminal can dock two world's largest cruise ships at the same time. Other facilities like parks and residences are also been planned.

What made Kai Tak Airport one of the Top 10 Dangerous Airports in the World?

Surrounded by Mountains on Three Sides

Kai Tak Airport is located in the urban area of Hong Kong where is full of high buildings and surrounded by mountains and water on three sides. The mountains to the north and northeast of Kai Tak Airport are about 600 meters high (near 1,970 feet), and the mountain to the east is only 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the runway. Less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the south, lies Victoria Harbor and across the harbor is Hong Kong Island with 520-meter-high (1,700-foot-high) mountain on. Only the west side of the airport and southeast side of the runway are not blocked. These mountains make taking off and landing very difficult.

Landing and Take-off Require Sharp Turns at Low Altitude

Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport had only one runway that extended into Victoria Harbor. Surrounding it, were the mountains on three sides as mentioned above, and high buildings. To stay away from these blocks, it needed the planes to make a big turn just after takeoff or before landing, which were of huge challenges. Taking the landing as an example. When approaching the airport, the pilot started for landing preparation after seeing the huge pilot lamp on the nearby Gezai Mountain and he/ she had to turn the plane around for a 47°angle to the right by visual measurement and aimed at the runway that extended into the harbor to land. This was done at an altitude of less than 300 meters (984 feet) and was only 2.6 km (1.6 miles) from the landing site.

Low-altitude Wind Shear

As there were many mountains near Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport, a kind of meteor - wind shear occurs frequently near the airport runway. The low-altitude wind shear is the most serious threat to the take-off and landing, which can not only make the aircraft deviate, but also may make the aircraft lose stability. If the plane lands in heavy rain at night, that’s another serious challenge. Pilots usually can’t see the runway when they land their plane; but to land in Kai Tak Airport, the pilot must see the runway. On stormy nights, some pilots had to wait in the air, keep the plane hovering and try again. If the pilot misjudged or mishandled the situation, the consequences would be quite serious.

However, for the same reason, airlines usually appointed only experienced pilots to fly their flights to Hong Kong. So since Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport opened, there have been very few air accidents.

Renovated into Kai Tak Cruise Terminal after Closure

Following the closure of Kai Tak Airport, the government discussed and planned on the development of Kai Tak and listened to the public. The final decision was to redevelop part of the infrastructure of Kai Tak Airport into a new cruise terminal. Completed in June 2013, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal can dock two ultra-large ships with a displacement of 220,000 tons at the same time and also can dock the world’s largest cruise ships.

There is a three-storey building with sophisticated, efficient and comfortable facilities and services in the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. On the top floor of this building is the largest hanging garden in Hong Kong, with an area of 23,000 square meters (5.7 acres). Here visitors have an opportunity to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of Hong Kong and the Kowloon Peninsula. Besides, the green central lawn, waterscape gardens and fountain squares are well worth a visit.

More Plans about Kai Tak Airport

In addition to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, the government also planned to develop Kai Tak into a new landmark of Victoria Harbor integrating CBD, residence, sports, tourism and other functions, including six main areas: Kai Tak City Centre development area, Stadium area, Commercial and Residential areas, Park, Leisure Runway area and Tourism area.

- Last updated on Nov. 16, 2023 by Gabby Li -
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