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KTPAFlyer
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What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:40 pm

Hello A.net,

As I never had the fortune of flying into Kai Tak during its heyday, but nonetheless have seen hundreds of pictures and videos of the famous checkerboard approach, has anybody landed there? What was it like? All contributations appreciated, thank you.
 
kaitak
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:45 pm

It was magical; I can still close my eyes and think of it now ... flying past the current airport site, as it was being built, then over toward Stonecutters, the checkerboard coming into view, then starting the sharp bank to line up ... the windier the better (from a pax perspective); some say you could see two minutes of television programming just by looking into people's front rooms, but I think that was just being slightly exaggerated!

Have a look at Youtube ... there are lots of very good videos of Kai Tak landings. Here's one of the oldest, of a Swissair Convair 990 (that IS old!) ... in German, but I think you can get the gist of it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra8eDiqsc4w

Here's a slightly longer one, with subtitles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqnit5PXZIo
 
Tan Flyr
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:51 pm

Like Kai Tak just said..it was fir sure sort of magical..thrilling..making the hard bank to the right to line up..and about a 2 min final from that point, if not a tad less. the "tunnel" as I would call it thru the maze of apartment towers was quite a show...you could see who's laundry was drying, and yes even TV screens at times thru the windows or glass doors. Real piloting for sure if there was any weather!

And you knew the pilot had to to hit the touchdown zone precisely or you were doing a go around..little room for error. It was a thrill!
 
LoudounHound
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:21 pm

I always felt like I could just reach out and grab some of the drying laundry from apartment rooftops. Getting a window seat was an absolute must. The only other airport where I've experienced anything remotely similar is SAN, but it pales in comparison.
 
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flyingclrs727
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:02 pm

I had a girl friend who grew up in Hong Kong. She and her family said it was quite dramatic to land at Kai Tak airport.
 
usflyer123
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 4:09 pm

i landed in Kai Tak one year before it was closed, i think it was 1997, and thats the most beautiful landing ive ever had! such great views, passing really low above mountains and buildings! unfortunately, the next time i was in Hong Kong it was at the new airport...
for most people the sky is the limit. for those who love aviation, the sky is home...
 
traindoc
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 7:55 pm

Yes, landing at Kai Tak was unique, especially if you approached over the high rises. To me, even more impressive was to be on the street below and have the planes shreeking right over you. And yes they did shreek as they had to maintain full power and basically dive over the high rises toward the runway. Now, when you leave Chep Lok, you fly over Hong Kong when going eastbound. At night it is an impressive sight with all the lights.
 
aklrno
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 9:10 pm

If you didn't have a window seat, it wasn't that special. If you did, it was amazing watching people hang their laundry on poles. Some of them seemed to be above you. It was too fast to really look into their windows, but you were close enough. If your window was on the left then watching the checkerboard go by, knowing you had been aiming for it seconds ago, was startling. Almost as much fun was watching the final turn and descent to the runway from the departure area. I never knew a 747 was that nimble.
 
Tan Flyr
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 9:42 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyU9OLqQ8XA


a shortened version of approach over Kowloon City
 
PEK777
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:37 pm

In the words of Vince Mcmahon..."IT WAS BETTER THAN SEX!"
 
itisi
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:43 pm

Kai Tak will always be special to those of us that experienced it. I think many now who don't even remember just say yeah it was amazing, could see people putting their washing out.... As they heard others say that.

The other week the South China Morning post did a story on Kai Tak :

http://m.scmp.com/lifestyle/travel-leis ... to-gallery
737-300/400/500 ... are NOT classics :)
 
IanM
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:47 pm

When setting out it was worth giving some thought to which side of the plane one was sitting on. For the classic Checkerboard approach the best seat was a right hand window. So at check-in you could ask for RH window. However not all approaches were from the north-east via Chequerboard- some came from the south-east on a more conventional approach over the sea.
The NE approach was a lot of fun as it is was a spectacular enough approach even without the Checherboard turn! On the turn you flew low over the "walled city of Kowloon" (where the HK authorities had no jurisdiction for historical reasons) and you could see washing lines and potted plants on roofs and balconies flying past.
The pilot did a quick straighten-up onto runway centreline as he crossed the airport boundary just a few seconds before touchdown.
It was also fun to be a spotter at street level watching the approaches from below.
As well as You Tube clips somewhere on line you can view the Kai Tak approach charts used by pilots. I understand that pilots had to be specially trained and be qualified to make this approach. Regards Ian
 
EC135C
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:24 pm

It was awesome. I am fortunate to have landed at Kai Tak on two occasions (1 on a DC-10-30 and the other a B-747. It felt like you could reach out and touch the buildings. Both were using the checkerboard approach. The turn to final was great. A very special and unique airport.
 
rocket45
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:42 pm

Another Tai Tak experience almost as good as being in the air was to see the aircraft from the ground. There is a large park on the approach above the lower business district and at the bottom of the famous Checkerboard. It was possible to climb steps and a ladder up the mesa like wall to a walkway just below the Checkerboard. From this spot the planes seemed almost level with your eyes. In the park below was a large swimming pool and an oval running track. The proper approach was to be on left side of the track which most of the legacy carriers at that time abided by. Then there were the guys that did a fast short cut into the 40 degree turn.

The most exciting place to be was the corner where the t-bars hung a few stories above the street with the flood lights showing the flight path. This was a busy area with lots of schools, shops,buses etc. and everyone going about their business as 747's flew just a few hundred foot over our heads. I was literally jumping and exclaiming with excitement and spent a good amount time there, one odd ball amid the prosaic life around me.

And finally the roof of the parking garage across from the terminal. One could see the line up of aircraft and for sure know they were going to fly straight on by the airport when suddenly the first one in line would make the turning dive onto the runway.

If Kai Tak were still there I would definitely go back once to year for the ground experience alone.
 
CaptainKramer
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:53 pm

I worked with a TV Producer who's Dad was a British Airways B744 Pilot and was trained and qualified to land at Kai Tak Airport. She flew in the jump seat into Honk Kong once, but I got the impression she did not enjoy it, from the way she described it, worried the whole time they would not stop in time and skid off into Hong Kong Bay as one B744 eventually did.

As far as B744's being nimble for their size, I watched a documentary on UK TV, where a group of Pilots were doing their check rides to become First Officers on a B743 using Kent Airport. Each Pilot would take it in turn, as they performed touch and go's. They interviewed one Pilot after his go, and he was buzzing, saying how he could not get over how responsive the B743 was, comparing it to a Cessna, C172.
 
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Loew
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:17 am

It was absolutely amazing approach but I would hate to have to live in one of the buildings below the approach path. That constant noise must have been dreadful :)
 
coolian2
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:20 am

My dad always said it wasn't bad. But he did his conscription in a Tiger Moth, which in level flight is riskier than Kai Tak
Q300/ATR72-600/737-200/-300/-400/-700/-800/A320/767-200/-300/757-200/777-300ER/
747-200/-300/-400/ER/A340-300/A380-800/MD-83/-88/CRJ-700/-900
 
itisi
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:41 am

You had to land with an airline that always screwed it up to get the true feeling... Korean, British Airways, Singapore... To name a few ;)

And nothing beat landing from the jump seat, which I was lucky enough to do four times.
737-300/400/500 ... are NOT classics :)
 
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aeromoe
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 12:50 am

I did it twice in 1996 on UA 744 from SFO....the famous IGS approach. Personally my flights were pretty smooth right through the landing and it wasn't much different than any normal straight-in approach. On both occasions I had my old VHS recorder going with a small B&W viewfinder to look through to compose the video.

I think viewing/photographing/videoing the landings from the ground gave a better impression of that dramatic turn to final approach than my two landings as a passenger.

Moe
AA AC AS BA BD BF BN BR BY B6 CO CP(2) DG DL EA EI EN FL FT F9 HA HP ICX JI JQ J7 KE KS LH MC NW OC OO OZ(1) OZ(2) PA PI PT QF QQ RM RO RV(1) RV(2) RW SK SM SQ S4 TI TS TW UA UK US UZ VS VX WA WN WS W7 XV YV YX(2) ZZ 9K
 
just7four7
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:53 am

Not just the approach and the spotting.

Kai Tak was essentially like arriving in one of those old train stations in Europe: You leave the station platform and you are immediately immersed in intense and foreign city life, just outside the front door. That in itself was a thrill. Nowadays, we sit on sad airport trains with automated messages that arrive in some underground station with no sense of arrival. In Kai Tak you stepped onto the apron (as most gates were remote gates), you saw the city and surrounding mountains and harbor, as if standing at a station plaza, you smelled the moist breeze and jet fumes. And once out of the front door, under the approach line of yet another rocketing 747, you are inside the city. A matter of minutes and you are in a taxi and in city streets and the wonders of a very foreign place.

Chek Lap Kok is a brilliant terminal, and absolute Nr.1 worldwide in terms of atmosphere and bustle and views and sense of place. The magic of Kai Tak was not Nr.1, it was unique and unconcsiously a wonder for the senses.
 
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KTPAFlyer
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 3:58 am

itisi wrote:
You had to land with an airline that always screwed it up to get the true feeling... Korean, British Airways, Singapore... To name a few ;)

And nothing beat landing from the jump seat, which I was lucky enough to do four times.


Man, it's a good thing Cathay Pacific isn't on that list...
 
usflyer msp
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 4:08 am

My dad and brother share a favorite memory of lading at Kai Tak in the late 1970's on a JAL 747. There was this older middle-america white missionary couple on board and they were so terrified by the landing that the man jumped up right before the checkerboard turn and screamed "Everybody Pray! This kamikaze is going to kill us all!" at the other shocked passengers. Apparently, it was quite the sight...
 
Tommy525
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:34 pm

just7four7 wrote:
Not just the approach and the spotting.

Kai Tak was essentially like arriving in one of those old train stations in Europe: You leave the station platform and you are immediately immersed in intense and foreign city life, just outside the front door. That in itself was a thrill. Nowadays, we sit on sad airport trains with automated messages that arrive in some underground station with no sense of arrival. In Kai Tak you stepped onto the apron (as most gates were remote gates), you saw the city and surrounding mountains and harbor, as if standing at a station plaza, you smelled the moist breeze and jet fumes. And once out of the front door, under the approach line of yet another rocketing 747, you are inside the city. A matter of minutes and you are in a taxi and in city streets and the wonders of a very foreign place.

Chek Lap Kok is a brilliant terminal, and absolute Nr.1 worldwide in terms of atmosphere and bustle and views and sense of place. The magic of Kai Tak was not Nr.1, it was unique and unconcsiously a wonder for the senses.


A Great description ! Yes arriving at Kai Tak was like that . You got out of the plane onto stairs. And you can see the size of the plane you were just on , walked down to the buses and all the time jets are landing minutes apart providing the back ground "feel" as you bus to the terminal and then BAM, you are right into the heart of the city, albeit the poor part of town.

I get the rare chance to brag a little here, having flown into and out of Kai tak over 100 times over many years. On Japan Asia (Jal's sub for flying to Taiwan) DC10-40, SQ 742, EVA 747combi , CX tristar/742/744/A340, MAS DC10-30, Ci 747SP/A300, Thai A300, BA 747, Swiss 743, etc.

EAch landing was a thrill. I liked sitting on the right side. You see the runway to your side and then the plane makes a sharp bank to the right and seems too high just before the checkboard then suddenly drops seems like ten stories and then lands firmly. And reverse comes on strong and then you stop. Even had the one time jump seat ride on a Thai A300 into Kai Tak. Too bad it was from the ocean side, less dramatic.

And your HK adventure begins !
 
trnswrld
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:16 pm

So after reading posts it seems like watching people hang laundry is the big thing to do while on approach lol.
 
717atOGG
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 5:39 pm

Even though I wasn't alive when Kai Tak was open, my dad flew into the airport from SEA in ~1988 and before landing he asked his seatmate, who was a Hong Kong native, "So, what's the landing like here?" His seatmate said "Oh, you'll figure out in a minute." Then my dad saw people hanging up their laundry and he had an "Oh my god, I'm going to die" moment. So I'd say that it was scary. :)
A320/321, A332, 712, 73G/8/9ER, 744, 752/3, E145, E175
 
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adambrau
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:12 pm

I lived in HongKong in the early 90's and maybe it was due to my age or lack of knowledge of flying, but I never thought the landing was that scary. It was pretty much a sharp bank by the checker board and then the drop to the runway whereby you could see the nearby apartment buildings with people's clothes drying out their windows/balconies. I feel the approach into LaGuardia sometimes is just as hairy especially the arrival where you come in over Queens and land on the runway where the Delta terminal is the first one you see on approach - that one has a lot of sharp vectors too although there are no mountains or high-rise apartments to thread through. The worst landing I ever had was on a China Eastern MD-11 from Shanghai where we had a hard touch down and all the overhead compartments opened and bags fell out, but people were calmer in those days and everyone just sort of laughed it off. I do remember a China Airlines 744 which landed too far down the runway and the plane went (at least partially) into the 'fragrant harbor'. But that has also happened at LGA...

A special memory for me (I was in my early 20's at my first job in finance) was something called the Star Ferry Harbor Cruise. For about USD10 you would board a Star Ferry boat which had free beer and wine and snacks and cruised around the harbor for at least an hour. The best part was that the ferry would stop at the end of the runway for about 10 minutes and you could watch the Jumbos come at you at takeoff speed and then veer off into the skies - always a really impressive site. Me and my buddies often did this on a Friday night after work, probably more because it was a cheap way to get your drink on, but I think we all enjoyed those minutes aside the Kai Tak runway.

Adam
Friendly Skies
 
a380787
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Tue Aug 30, 2016 7:20 pm

The best part is actually when you're walking around Kowloon City (the really old and dense neighborhood right before the runway) and see a 744 landing literally over your head .... not as scary as SXM but nearly at that level.
 
LifetimeGS
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:32 am

Coolest thing ever, I will never forget it. Just when you thought you were as close as you could get to buildings you got closer.
 
Whywhyjay
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:54 am

It was thrilling! I landed there twice in early 1994, first at night on a Cathay 744, then during the day on a Dragonair L1011. Fortunately I was on the right hand side for both. This was just a few months after a China Airlines 747 had gone off the end of the runway and the hulk of the aircraft had been hauled up onto land, hastily whitewashed, and was plainly visible as we taxied to the terminal. As just7four7 said the whole airport was an experience, out on the tarmac it seemed a bit whiffy as though there was a sewage plant nearby, and it's the only place I've boarded a plane on those elevating bus things. Also had time to go to the top floor of the parking tower and watch the checkerboard approach from a distance. One lasting impression is of some enormous advertising billboards that seemed to be set up to be visible from approaching aircraft, my memory is probably exaggerating this a bit, but I recall flying by giant white letters " o r o b l r a M " on a red background!
Whywhyjay?
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JHwk
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 1:27 am

Trying to remember when I would have flown into KaiTak... while I remember the laundry and approach I can't remember why I was there. (I moved to HK in '99 after it closed.)

Kai Tak had the jet bridges that would shift from the upper to lower level of the building for arrival/departure, right..?
 
rcair1
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:41 pm

My first, and only, Kai Tak experience was CRAZY. I seriously thought something was wrong. I was on Cathy coming in during a typhoon on a A340. The weather was terrible and I had no idea about the uniqueness of the Kai Tak approach. So - picture that you are a pilot - sitting in a window on Business class on the right side - bouncing around in what I would call pretty severe turbulence and you look out the window directly into somebody's apartment. Then suddenly you go into a right bank that sure feels like it is more than 30 degrees. All the time, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing and barely able to see through the rain.

My thoughts were "This CANNOT be normal".

Needless to say - it was - well, maybe for the Cathy pilot who planted that 340 like a rock.

BTW - all my co-workers coming in on a flight from Japan just behind me, diverted. They did not get there till the next day.

Rumor was - Cathy pilot wanted to land 'cause it was payday (a joke of course).
rcair1
 
BravoOne
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:18 pm

I flew in and out of VHH numerous times as a check pilot on the L1011 and MD11. All new Capts had to make their 1st entry with a check pilot Line Check Airman) in the right seat. Occasionally when landing in the early am, you would land from over the water. What a disappointment after having flown for the last fifteen hours and not getting the Stone Cutter approach.
 
RetiredWeasel
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Re: What did landing at Kai Tak feel like?

Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:29 pm

BravoOne wrote:
I flew in and out of VHH numerous times as a check pilot on the L1011 and MD11. All new Capts had to make their 1st entry with a check pilot Line Check Airman) in the right seat. .


Flew in there several time as a FO on the 747-2. Only got to land there maybe two times as those crafty old CPT's would strategically designate who got what legs early on in the trip and ensure they had the leg into HKG. But it was still fun to make the callouts and Kowloon was always a nice layover.

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