Aviation history of Hong Kong

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The first privately owned airport in Hong Kong was located in Sha Tin. On 18 March 1911, the aeroplane of the Belgian pilot, Charles den Bron, successfully took off at the airport in Sha Tin on an aeroplane named Spirit of Sha Tin (Chinese: 沙田精神號). It was the first aeroplane that took off from the territory, using Kai Tak airport. A replica of the aircraft is hung at the new Chep Lap Kok airport above the arrivals hall.[1]

Kai Tak and Chep Lap Kok[edit]

Aerial view of Kai Tak in the 1970s
Aerial view of the new airport in the 2010

The year 1924 was a critical point of aviation history of Hong Kong, when the story of Kai Tak began. The location of Kai Tak belonged to two billionaire friends Ho Kai and Au Tak, who owned the land before the government acquired the land (the land originally did not have a name), which explains the name of the airport. First planned as an estate site, the land was given to the government after the plan failed. It soon became a small airport for the Royal Air Force, flying clubs and pilot training centre.

The first domestic airline company was set up in 1936. Later during the second World War, the runway was expanded. In 1962 the passenger terminal was completed, and Kai Tak became an international airport, renamed Hong Kong International Airport. But it continued to be referred to by its popular name, Kai Tak Airport. Within a couple of decades, it became clear that the current airport was not adequate enough. The airport itself was now surrounded by more private buildings, making further land acquisition and expansion impossible. To reduce the impact of noisy aircraft on nearby residents, there was a curfew in place.[2][3] It was decided to look for a new area, which could fit a huge airport, built from scratch. In the early 90s, construction on a new airport outside the busy Hong Kong central area, began at Chep Lap Kok, 30 km to the west of Kai Tak. This new airport is built on reclaimed land and the reclamation process involved joining Lam Chau island with Chep Lap Kok island.[4] The old airport at Kai Tak finally retired at midnight 5 July 1998, and the new Hong Kong International Airport and began service in the morning of the following day. Recently, a couple of new airport buildings were opened to help with the increasing number of travellers.[5][6] There are many talks at present, to exend the current airport in the years to come.

Many aviation enthusiasts were upset with the demise of Kai Tak because of the unique approach. As private aviation is not allowed at Chek Lap Kok, some enthusiasts had lobbied to keep around 1 km of the Kai Tak runway for private aviation; this was permitted for a while, but later on the Government recommended that a new cruise terminal at Kai Tak be built. In the meantime, a golf course was built at the end of the runway, this was later removed, to make way for cruise terminal construction equipment.[7]

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