The Kai Tak Heart Attack

This is a very iconic photograph of Hong Kong found in many souvenir shops and books; a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-367 descending into the middle of Kowloon City to land on the old Kai Tak airport right below. Kowloon City is surrounded on three sides by mountains, on one by the South China Sea, AND ON EVERY SIDE BY APARTMENTS, and planes had to go very low over the rooftops before a dramatic last-minute turn to align themselves with the runway. Landing there used to be called the Kai Tak Heart Attack.


Kai Tak closed on July 1998 (and Hong Kong International Airport moved to Chek Lap Kok, where it is now and where landings are much less thrilling). The photograph was taken by Daryl Chapman just weeks before the old airport closed. I have very vague memories of what it felt to be on a plane landing there when I was much younger (I do remember that the experience of landing on Hong Kong used to be much more scenic than it is now. Now it’s just…water, water, water, bump, oh we’re here. No more peeking into people’s apartments to see what they’re watching on TV).

Anyway, since it’s my sixth year now of living in Hong Kong, I thought it was high time that I bought an original 12″ x 15″ photo print of it. Which I did this afternoon. It’s a great reminder of how I’ve never had a single moment of boredom in Hong Kong.

I’m leaving here a video of a Malaysia Airlines 747 doing a Kai Tak Heart Attack from back when. LOOK AT THAT EFFING TURN AT 0:33 and how the plane straightens itself immediately and slips into the middle of town like it’s no big deal. Terrifying.

Posted on December 8, 2012, in Hong Kong, Photos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hello Crystal,

    This is Ting Ting from Flight Experience, I love your writing, your the wording discribing Kai Tak is absolutely beautiful. I would like to invite you over to Flight Experience for being a pilot, controlling a Boeing 737 simulator landing in Kai Tak by yourself, with the instruction by our commercial pilots, I’m sure you will have an amazing experience here with us. Kindly all my at 2359-0000, we all miss Kai Tak

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