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Kai Tak International Airport

Kai Tak International Airport (啟德國際機場 Pinyin: Qǐdé) was the international airport of Hong Kong until July 6, 1998. Having the IATA Airport Code HKG, the famous airport served as Cathay Pacific's hub.

The landing approach to the Kowloon location was spectacular. The aircraft was literally landing in the city, and people on the plane could see the flicker of televisions in apartment windows. The pilots used a checkerboard on a hillside to guide them to the ground.

As well as the difficult and potentially dangerous landing, Hong Kong's growth stretched the airport's capacity. Moreover, the clearance requirements for aircraft takeoffs and landings enforced a limit on the height of the buildings that could be built on expensive Kowloon real estate.

As a result, Hong Kong International Airport, also known as "Chek Lap Kok International Airport" was built near Lantau Island. All of the supplies were transported to Chek Lap Kok in a massive move, and planes stopped landing at Kai Tak. Its IATA Airport Code was given to Chek Lap Kok airport.


The story of Kai Tak started in 1924. The location of Kai Tak belonged to two billionaires Ho Kai and Au Tak, which explains the name of the airport. First planned as an estate site, the land was given to the government after the plan failed. Sooner it became a small airport for royal air force, flying clubs and pilot training center.

In 1936, the first domestic airline in Hong Kong was established.

In 1943, Hong Kong fell into the hands of Japanese during World War II. Japanese army extended Kai Tak and built an additional runway. During the process, they had destroyed the 45m tall Sung Wong Toi - a memorial for the last Song dynasty emperor. Japanese surrendered shortly after the completion of the second runway in 1945.

An official plan to modify Kai Tak to be a modern airport was released in 1954. In 1962, the passenger terminal was completed and Kai Tak became an international airport.

At first Kai Tak was "far away" from residental areas. But as both the residental areas and the airport expanded, Kai Tak became too close to the residental areas. There were many talks about a new airport but no plan really worked out due to various reasons. Finally in 1990, in response to the political instability due to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Hong Kong government decided to go ahead with the so-called "Rose Garden Plan" of which the Chek Lap Kok International Airport was the centerpiece.

If Project Bojinka had not been discovered after a fire in Manila, Philippines, one or more aircraft owned by a U.S carrier/s flying to this airport would have blown up over the Pacific Ocean on January 21, 1995 as part of the project's first phase.

In 1998, Kai Tak was finally retired as an airport. It was eventually transformed into government offices, automobile dealerships and recreational facilities.

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