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Was Hong Kong’s Kai Tak the world’s scariest airport?

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Kai Tak was an international airport situated in the heart of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula. In 1998, was replaced by the Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok, but Kai Tak Airport still sparks nostalgia among both aviation professionals and Hongkongers alike. While Hong Kong’s “new” airport is considered one of the best in the world, fond memories remain of old Kai Tak, a city symbol with a memorable place in local history.

The approach for landing on runway 13 was the most challenging, known to pilots as the Chequerboard Approach. It began to the southwest of the airport, close to the outlying island of Cheung Chau, and close to the current airport location.

Aircraft would intercept the localizer for the runway at this point and turn right towards Kai Tak. Pilots would then fly towards a large orange and white chequerboard located on a hill in Kowloon Tsai Park (still known as Chequerboard Hill). This is where aircraft would make a 47-degree right turn to line up with the runway, with less than two nautical miles to fly and started at a height of only around 650 feet. Needless to say, this was a difficult manoeuvre, and something pilots would train specifically for.

Note: The work of aviation photographer Daryl Chapman who appears in this video is distributed by

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