Piece of Cake

Our friend Agus has been posting some airplane pics recently on his blog " About Life". Coincidently another friend emailed some pictures of airplanes flying into the airport in Hong Kong called Kai Tak (now closed). Though you may have already seen them yourself, I thought I'd post them in case you haven't and add my own comments.

Some friends of mine who ran a flight school on Maui were quite familiar with this airport. Wendy is from the Philippines and is a CFII (certified flight instructor, instrument) and I did some flying with her when I was working on my instrument ticket. Her husband Len, is a Kiwi who flew in the NZ Air Force, then had a commercial aviation career from which he retired as a 747 captain for Cathay Pacific. They've since moved the flight school to Auckland.

Anyway, during his career with Cathay Pacific, Len did a lot flying in and out of Hong Kong's Kai Tak. The runway was long enough - 11,122 feet - but it is surrounded by hills, buildings, and water, making it a sometimes challenging airport for large aircraft. Len would laugh at that and say "piece of cake". Have a look at the photos and make up your own mind.

The first two photos were taken from the balconies of tall buildings. I don't know about where you live, but I don't often look out my window to see a 747 sailing by.
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When the weather was at minimums (ie the worst allowable) the planes would come out of the clouds next to the hills where a radio beacon and a big red and white checkerboard pattern were located. The first one on the flight deck to see it would call "checkerboard in sight". I don't know what they said if no one saw it - a four letter word probably.
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The plane would then make a hard right turn at only 1000 feet of altitude toward the airport just two miles away.
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Hopefully, one wasn't too high at this point.
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Crosswinds were common so crabbing into the wind was necessary.
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I have to use body english when I look at this one....come on, get over there...
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Over-shoot, and you're in the drink, kick it out of the crab too soon, and you're blown back off the runway, wait too long, and that crunching sound you hear is the # 4 engine
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Over do it and it will be the #1 engine that hits the ground.
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At Kai Tak, a firm landing was a good thing. Get down, get stopped.
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Apartment for let....uh, no thanks.
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"Welcome to Hong Kong. On behalf of the captain and and crew I would like to thank you for flying China Airlines today. In appreciation, the captain has decided to give you a complementary tour of Kowloon Bay."
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Piece of cake?


YD said...

ooooh la la!

Crazy airlines... Hey their skills are better than those terrorist!

(oops, taboo word, keep my mouth shut)

Pandabonium said...

Oh, YD, don't get me started on how likely it was that people whose flight instructors said they weren't romotely fit to fly even a Cessna 172 (with lots of help) could take over the controls of a large airliner, navigate it at 7 miles altitude across several states, perform edge of the flight-envelope maneuvers to fly it into a small target (that even many airline pilots could not duplicate on simulators).

I'd be given the dreaded label "conspiracy theorist".

Hey, wait a minute. The official version of events is a conspiracy theory.

YD = Trouble maker. ;^)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Talk about white-knuckle flying! Kriminey!!!

I hope the flight attendants make the passengers shut all the windows during landing!

I think my scariest landing experience was on a 727 going into San Francisco. We were circling high above the airport in a holding pattern, and then the pilot suddenly banged it into a dive without banking. (Yes, we did feel weightless for a few seconds.) We watched the city come at us at alarming speed, and then the pilot pulled up hard (Yes, we did feel very heavy for a few seconds) and hit the runway...BANG. The plane bounced quite hard several times before the pilot hit his reversers and jammed on the brakes or whatever...causing the plane to fishtail crazily.

It was like an amusement park ride, only we knew it wasn't supposed to be. People were screaming throughout the whole affair, and as we left the plane a lot of them looked very shaken.

One trembling woman said, "I think I'm taking a different airline when I head back home..." I only I'd had that luxury.

Pandabonium said...

That sounds very scary, Moody. I can only guess what might have been going on to cause that to happen - none of it good.

Robin said...

Kai Tak Airport has always been a tough landing for the pilots.

And yes, many a times, they do land next to it... at Kowloon bay

Happysurfer said...

Very nice pictures, Pandabonium. Thanks for sharing them.

YD said...

moody's experience is scary. I experienced a strong turbulence in plane before, and was a bit shaken after that. But now, the moody's "funfair ride" would scared me to death! (although I love amusement park rides...)

agus said...

Those are crazy landings pictures! And I'd be scared stiff if I was moody in that horrible landing. Heck, I'm still traumatised by several strong turbulence and vacuums I experienced last year.

vina said...

oh wow, these are great photos!

those planes flying over the buildings are literally breathtaking.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Vina. Wish I could say I had taken the photos myself. Thank you for visiting my blog.

bonnie said...

YIKES. Good photo-essay!

Pandabonium said...

Eh, Bonnie, howzit cousin? I promise to visit frogma blog soon.

I wish I could take credit for this, but I just reworded it from my own perspective. Glad you found it interesting.