Monday, June 02, 2008

A Heart Pounding Salute to old Kai Tak

Special thanks to Steele Lipe (SW) for sending this video with an introduction from veteran airline pilot Jim Morehead.

Jim Morehead's Letter About Flying In and Out of Kai Tak:

"Ah...what a wonderful experience. I did it many times in a 767 from Delhi in the early morning. We often didn't have to do the loop or follow anyone and were #1 coming from China. I recall being at 16,000 feet ( + or - as they used meters) and then landing straight in with the airport about 25 miles away with the gear out and the speed brakes out. We'd sail in and out of the valleys looking up at apartment buildings and ladies' underwear on the clothes lines.

"On Landing and parking, every so often, we would get a gate! Otherwise, it was remote parking with a bus to the terminal. Then the airplane would sit there until 9:00pm and go back to Delhi.

"I was junior in the operation and I got stuck with a line, where the senior guys bid reserve and never went anywhere.

"Back in the day..

"I recall hitting the second soccer field at low altitude after leaving the checkerboard.

"The worst was with an approaching typhoon giving us a strong gusty crosswind from the right. Some good memories here."

Jim Morehead
Here is an additional note from Pete Sofman with information about the person who created the video and a brief history of Kai Tak:

24 November 2007

First of all, this is a collection from YouTube...

I would like to thank all the enthusiasts from YouTube especially Mr. Boyd Kelly (airboyd of YouTube) which I used their best fragments to make this special Kai Tak video.

Kai Tak Airport VHHH (1925 - 1998) VHHX (since 1998) was the world's busiest international airport.

The growth of Hong Kong put a strain on the airport's capacity. The airport was designed to handle 24 million passengers per year but in 1996, Kai Tak had already handled 29.5 million passengers, plus 1.56 million tonnes of freight, making it the third busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic, and first in terms of cargo.

However extremely busy Kai Tak was located in the city center, the Kowloon City (The city of nine dragons "city surrounded by nine mountains"), around by high density buildings, numerous skyscrapers and rugged mountains reaching an altitude of 2000 ft. with single narrow runway close to taxiway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, and further less than 10 Km is Hong Kong Island, another densely populated area with hills up to 2100 ft., the airport was infamously difficult to land at. However, due to the same reason, only experience pilots were chosen for the challenging approach and air crash incidents rarely occur.

The low altitude manoeuvre was so spectacular that crowded streets of people, multi-storey buildings, vehicles and pavements can easily be "touched", you can hear "WOW" or "My God" from passengers when they see the flickering of televisions even children say "Hi" to them through apartment windows as their aircraft approached the airport's landing strip. In this video, you can find the most extreme landings, but these happened several hundred times per day, and were just the real daily life of Hong Kong people.