Kai Tak Airport served as Hong Kong's international airport from 1925 until 1998. The airport was known for its spectacular location with the skyscrapers and mountains of Kowloon located to the north and its only runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour. Landing at the airport from the north was a breathtaking experience, and one which required special training for pilots.
In the near future we will be posting a full history on this legendary airport, featuring many never-seen-before images and fascinating background information.
For a taste of what's to come, AirportHistory.org takes you back on a trip back to the early years of the Jet Age to see what life was like at the legendary Kai Tak Airport. Enjoy!
An early-1960s aerial view of Kai Tak Airport taken from the north-west view. In 1958, a new 8,350-foot-long (2,542 meter) runway extending into Kowloon Bay was completed by land reclamation. Credit: HKISD
A 1962 aerial view showing the newly built passenger terminal. It was a state-of-art facility for its time with departing and arriving passengers being split between two levels. An elevated roadway brought passengers to the departure level. Total construction cost at the time was one million British pounds. Credit: HKISD
A view from the inside of the air traffic control tower. Credit: HKISD
An aerial view of the platform. There was room for 10 aircraft on the expanded platform. Due to very strong growth of air traffic in the early 1960s, room ran out during peak times. Sometimes 17 aircraft were crowded onto the apron. Credit: HKISD
A great video about the opening of the new Kai Tak Airport terminal in 1964
departing kai tak
A view of the departure curb. Look at those shiny cars! Credit: HKISD
An old style departures and arrivals board! The day is August 27th, 1962. Many of the mentioned airlines are still around, except Pan American. BOAC was later merged into British Airways. There are lots of options if you want to go to Bangkok! Credit: HKISD
A view of an abandoned departure hall, taken just before the opening of the terminal in 1962. Credit: HKISD
The check-in desks of Air France, Philippine Airlines and Garuda Indonesia Airlines. Credit: HKISD
The check-in area for Cathay Pacific, which has been Hong Kong's home carrier since 1946. Credit: HKISD
A view of the departure lounge. Credit: HKISD
A view of the departure lounge, presumably just before opening. Credit: HKISD
What did they have on tap in the airport bar in those days? Perhaps one of our readers knows? Credit: HKISD
A rare non-airport photo but I really like this one. Two gentlemen enjoying the early Jet Age in Asia. What a combination! The scene seems a bit staged, as meals are normally not served on the ground. Credit: HKISD
Arriving at Kai tak
Great video of a Swissair Convair CV-990 landing in Kai Tak in 1964. Hong Kong footage starting from 6.35 minutes.
An airside view of the new terminal. The logo on the van suggests we're probably looking into the engine of a Boeing 707 belonging to Pan American. Credit: HKISD
Passengers are disembarking a Malaysia - Singapore Airlines Boeing 707. The airline ceased operations in 1972 and assets were transferred to newly established carriers Malaysia Airways and Singapore Airlines. Credit: HKISD
Passengers disembark from a Cathay Pacific Convair 880. The 880 served in Cathay's fleet between 1962 and 1975. Passengers boarded aircraft by means of stairs. Boarding bridges were installed in the early 1970s. Credit: HKISD
The immigration desks. The ladies in turquoise are Cathay Pacific flight attendants. There is a separate lane for British passport holders, which makes sense as Hong Kong was British territory until 1997. Credit: HKISD
Arriving passengers going through customs. Something tells me that these people were on a BOAC flight! Were bags like these complimentary for first class passengers? Perhaps one of our readers knows? Credit: HKISD
a day of leisure at kai tak
A view of the airport observation deck. For the younger readers: observation decks like these were commonplace at airports around the world in the 1960s. Due to safety concerns and airport expansion projects, they have slowly disappeared. Credit: HKISD
Another view of the observation deck. Parked on the ramp are an Air Vietnam Douglas DC-6, a Garuda Indonesia Lockheed Electra L-188, a Japan Airlines Convair DC-8 and a Lufthansa Boeing 707. Credit: HKISD
Another view from the observation deck. Northwest Airlines, which had an extensive transpacific network, served Hong Kong from its Pacific hub at Tokyo Haneda Airport, later Narita. Credit: HKISD
Airport visitors in the airport restaurant behind the observation deck. Credit: HKISD
Visitors were able to take an airport tour in this Mercedes-Benz vehicle. Nice! Credit: HKISD
end of the tour
That concludes our little tour of Kai Tak Airport in the 1960s. A full history on the airport, featuring many more never-seen-before images and fascinating facts, will be posted at a later date.
Did you fly through Kai Tak? Leave a comment below and share your memories!
If you have any interesting images or information for our upcoming history on Kai Tak, be sure to drop me a line.