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Kai Tak Memories

The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar was once a staple at Kai Tak, and spotters flocked there to photograph this beautiful airliner. Besides appearing in the livery of Cathay Pacific Airways, it has also operated in the livery of Dragonair Hongkong Airlines (KA). VR-HOK wearing Dragonair's more subdued livery is photographed moments before touchdown on runway 13.

Cathay Pacific Airways adorned a Boeing 747-267B with Hongkong's stunning skyline in a suitably stunning fashion to commemorate the return of Hongkong to China in 1997. Named the "Spirit of Hongkong", it became the most sought-after subject for many spotters who made their final pilgrimage in Kai Tak's closing months. Seen here lining up on runway 13, this special livery is contrasted against the more subtle rendition of Cathay Pacific's regular livery on a Boeing 747-367B.

Cathay Pacific Cargo had an extensive cargo operation at Kai Tak, and the Boeing 747-267F is the workhorse of this operation. Whilst many pilots of other airlines struggle to point their machine down the runway (never mind being level and looking great), Cathay Pacific's pilots routinely makes this hair-raising approach seems almost child's play. B-HVZ is seen here from the airport's carpark rooftop looking great and all ready for a photo opportunity.

The Boeing 777-367 was the last new aircraft type to be introduced by Cathay Pacific Airways at Kai Tak, and B-HNH undertook a low-level flypast on a cloudy day to mark the end of her delivery flight from Seattle. It is photographed from the rooftop of Tien Chu Centre as it passed over the control tower and terminal building.

Kai Tak's compact size did not stop her from being the first Asian airport to handle 1 million tonnes of aircargo per annum. This very typical overview of the apron is dominated by the B747-200Fs of China Airlines Cargo, Air France Cargo, United Parcel Service and Air Hong Kong, a solitary Boeing 747-467F of Cathay Pacific Cargo and an MD-11F of Fedex.

The growth of Kai Tak was a reflection of Hongkong economic vibrance, and a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-412 9V-SPD is seen against a backdrop of Hongkong's spectacular skyline. Kai Tak offers the spotter an unsurpassed choice of locations for spotting and photography, and this shot was taken from a spot adjacent to the Government Flying Service on Cheung Yip Street.

No airport is without her stormy days, and on a Sunday in May 1998 whilst Hongkongers were voting for their Legislative Council, Kai Tak was whipped by murderous winds, lashing rains and jet-black clouds. A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-4H6 9M-MPJ was one of the last to sneak in on the IGS approach, after which dozens of airliners including those of Cathay Pacific Airways made futile attempts to land on both runways 13 and 31.

Many aviation photographers and I share a common dream to capture the ultimate flying machine - the Concorde against the haphazard beauty of Kowloon in one picture. Such an opportunity presented itself in October 1997 when Air France operated F-BVFA on a round the world jaunt, calling at Kai Tak enroute from Beijing to New Delhi.

An exotic visitor from nearby Philippines was the Airbus A300 of GrandAir, and F-OHPN was seen here departing from runway 13. GrandAir has an eventful history of impoundings and repossession of airplanes, and service was soon disrupted (again).

A visitor from not-so-nearby Brazil was this McDonnell Douglas MD-11 from Varig Brasilian Airlines. PP-VOP in the airline's former livery cast a reflection on the murky waters of the "Fragrant Harbour" as it taxiied to the terminal.

Kowloon residents must be the most tolerant people on Earth, and when prevailing winds dictate a runway 31 departure, ear plugs must surely be in great demand. A Boeing 747-251F (N619US) of Northwest Cargo was thundered over Kowloon City as it makes a left turn shortly after lift-off from runway 31.

Canadian Airlines International (CAI/CP) was another Trans-Pacific operator into Kai Tak with a daily flight that continued to Bangkok. Boeing 747-475 C-FBCA was seen from the 11th storey balcony of an apartment block in Chun Seen Mei Chuen Estate making an almost desperate attempt to reach runway 13.

Although the TriStar in the liveries of Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair have faded into the history books by May 1998, those from other airlines kept TriStar fans like myself satisfied. HS-LTA painted in the colours of Orient Thai Airlines made twice-weekly appearance at Kai Tak bearing the titles of Kampuchea Airlines (KT) and was pictured moments before touching down on runway 13 after a Phnom Penh - Hong Kong flight.


If you share a common nostalgia for Kai Tak, drop me a line by e-mail or pen your thoughts in the guestbook located next to the pagecounter on the Homepage.


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