If you are an aviation enthusiast, the main reason to visit Hong Kong USED to be Kai Tak – one of the world’s most difficult airports to land at. I say “used to” because Kai Tak is no more. The airport was decommissioned in 1998 when the Chek Lap Kok airport opened west of the city. Unfortunately, I have never had an opportunity to land at Kai Tak when it was operational.
So picture this… One runway in the middle of a densely populated area surrounded by hills. During landing, the pilot had to execute a steep turn just a few hundred feet above the runway seconds before touchdown. You had to be on top of your game and your landing approach HAD to be perfect. As a passenger, you watched people in the surrounding buildings eat dinner and hang laundry on their balconies as you flew by. It was THE MOST SPECTACULAR landing to see from the cockpit and as a passenger.
When I went to visit the city recently, I naturally had to examine whatever was left of the old airport and see whether the famous “checkerboard,” a visual aid on the side of the mountain to help the aircraft make the final turn, was still there. See my pictures. I would not be surprised that in a year or two there will be nothing left.