Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you

Kai Tak closed in the early hours of July 6, 1998. To mark the 20th anniversary of the game-changing event in Asia’s world city, we review what made Hong Kong’s old airport so special to aviation fans from across the globe.


Cathay Pacific Airways has been synonymous with Hong Kong since it was founded in 1946. Its green-and-white aircraft were initially confined to Asia, but now range across the globe as a symbol of the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Lockheed L1011 TriStar 1 VR-HHY taxies to the terminal after landing on Runway 13. (

The growth of Hong Kong was putting a marked a strain on the city’s famous airport, Kai Tak, during the 1990s. The airfield had opened in 1925 but over the intervening 65 years the site on the edge of Kowloon Harbour had been hemmed in by roads and high-rise developments. Flight operations imposed limitations on the height of new property and land reclamation had been pushed to the limits. Pollution was also a serious problem and a curfew between 0000hrs and 0630hrs restricted operations. The terminal was extended to handle 24m ppa but in 1996 29.5 million travellers passed through its doors.

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