iSee Kai Tak

Hong Kong’s world-famous old airport

From your rooftop, you can poke the planes with a bamboo pole.

World’s most dangerous airport

If you look east, you see where Kai Tak Airport, the 6th most dangerous airport in the world, used to be. Smack bam in the middle of Kowloon, Kai Tak was a very challenging airport to take off from and land at. Planes literally flew just over the buildings! There was a famous saying amongst locals: "From your rooftop, you can poke the planes with a bamboo pole".

Kai and Tak

Mr Kai Ho was Hong Kong's first Chinese lawyer, and his son-in-law, Mr Au Tak, was a successful entrepreneur. In 1914, they formed the Kai Tak Investment Company and reclaimed land to build an upscale residential garden estate. But just a few years later, they had to abandon the project; the 1920 Canton–Hong Kong strike happened, and there was a mosquito outbreak at the site. The government bought the plot for a proverbial penny and set up a military airfield. They built a hangar and a control tower, and in 1936, the first passenger plane landed on the grass airstrip.

Reclaim to fame

For many years, Kai Tak was just a small grass airfield. It wasn't until WWII that the Japanese built concrete runways. But things really took off—no pun intended—after the war. In 1946, Cathay Pacific was founded. Soon, plans were made to expand the runways by reclaiming part of Kowloon Bay, making it one of the world's most legendary airports.

Moving on up

In the 90s, when Hong Kong was booming, Kai Tak handled nearly 30 million passengers a day, making it the third busiest airport in the world. It was time to move out of the city. In 1998, Kai Tak closed. Nothing remains of the old airport: no control tower, no hangars, just a fence. There is a cruise terminal on the old runways, and soon, it will be home to upscale skyscrapers, just like Kai and Tak envisioned it a century ago.

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