In the history of civil aviation, there is an air harbor, which even 24 years after the closure is considered the most dangerous airport in the world. Pilots who were forced to land there recall with horror the times of cooperation with this place.
It all started in 1912, when Chinese businessmen Au Tak and Ho Kai purchased a plot of land in the urban district of Kowloon. They wanted to use the purchased land for the construction of enterprises, but after a few years they decided to sell it, since the land was unsuitable for construction. The city authorities became interested in the site in the area and expressed a desire to buy it from entrepreneurs. The deal took place, and an airfield began to be built on the territory.
In 1924, pilot Harry Abbott opened a flight school named after himself on this land. After a while, several more air schools and flying clubs were opened on the territory of the airfield. The first control tower was built here in 1935, and since 1936 the airfield began to conduct commercial transportation of passengers. However, the airfield turned into Kaitak Airport only during the Second World War, when China was under the control of militaristic Japan.
Until 1941, the airport was considered amateur, but the Japanese authorities decided to turn it into a full-fledged air terminal, which will meet and see off thousands of passengers a day. The Japanese began to create two runways that overlooked the bay. The construction was carried out by the hands of captured citizens of China and allied countries. The invaders for the construction decided to destroy the wall around the airport territory, which was considered a historical landmark in the city. This caused discontent among citizens, but the Japanese did not pay attention to it and continued construction.
When the Second World War came to an end and China freed itself from the influence of Japan, work on the airport was not abandoned, but continued, improving it. In 1957, the runways were extended to 1660 meters, and in 1974 another extension was carried out - up to 3400 meters. The terminal for receiving passengers began to function in the mid-1960s.
Why is the airport dangerous?
During the work on the airport, the rest of Hong Kong also grew, acquiring tall houses. In the early years of the airport, Kaitak was a remote place where planes could take off and land unhindered, but by the 1970s, the airport had become sandwiched between the skyscrapers of residential neighborhoods.
The process of landing on the runway has become almost impossible to successfully complete. In order for the plane to land and not cause a catastrophe, the pilot had to fly between the roofs of high-rise buildings without hitting them, at an altitude of only 200 meters above the ground, make a sharp turn of 47 degrees, and later land at an unimaginable height of 40 meters. Due to the fact that there were tall buildings in the area, an air flow was given, which provoked constant winds, further complicating the work of pilots.
Planes flew so close to the windows of houses that the locals had a joke that the passengers of the plane during the descent can see what the townspeople watch on TV. The pilots said that they could be proud of themselves if they were entrusted with landing in Kaitake, because the airline considered them ace pilots, since it entrusted such a difficult landing.
Each time the plane landed, hundreds and thousands of people were at risk. If the plane crashed into one of the high-rises, all the passengers + dozens or hundreds of residents of these houses would have died. Fortunately, however, no such incident occurred. There were accidents with victims, but their number does not exceed those that occurred at other airports.
The largest tragedy associated with this airport occurred in August 1965, when a Hercules warplane crashed immediately after the start of the flight. The American plane crashed and led to the death of 59 people. There were 71 people on board, including the crew.
Over time, pilots, passengers, and residents of nearby houses became accustomed to the fact that planes have to fly a few meters from the windows of houses. However, the city authorities in the 1980s began to worry, because Kaitak became the third airport in the world in terms of the number of passengers carried per year. It was designed for 24 million, and transported about 30 million people. The increased load on the air terminal increased the risk of accidents, so the authorities of Hong Kong decided to take serious measures.
The last day of the life of the airport
On 6 July 1998, at 0:02 a.m., the last aircraft carrying passengers commercially was launched from the runway. He was on his way to London. When the plane took off, the head of civil aviation of the city entered the control tower, turned on the radio and made a farewell speech for airport employees. Before turning off all systems for the last time, the aviator thanked Kaytak for his years of service. When Kaitak closed, the main airport of the city was Chek Lap Kok - a modern and conveniently located air terminal.
Now only ruins and crumbling runways remain from the legendary airport.