Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport
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.
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.
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.