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Logistics
Hong Kong airport aims to meet new challenges
Date:2018-09-10 Readers:

It was 6:30 am on July 6, 1998, when a commercial airliner from New York made the first landing at the newly completed Hong Kong International Airport.

Only five hours before the inaugural flight landed at the new facility-Chek Lap Kok Airport-the final flight took off from Hong Kong's aging Kai Tak Airport. The runway lights at Kai Tak were switched off for the last time at 1:20 am that day.

The opening of the new airport built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok was a landmark event, contributing to Hong Kong's status in international aviation.

"That was the beginning of our steep climb, to rise and shine as one of the world's major aviation hubs," Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on the airport's 20th anniversary.

The statutory body overseeing the airport's operations, the Airport Authority Hong Kong, has noted the importance of the facility's location. Half the world's population lives within five hours' flying time of Chek Lap Kok.

The authority said the airport handled about 73 million passengers and more than 5 million metric tons of cargo in 2017, making it the world's eighth-busiest passenger airport, and the world's busiest for cargo.

The airport was a long-awaited replacement for Kai Tak, considered by pilots as one of the most challenging airports in the world.

Pilots had to negotiate steep hills near Kai Tak, often buffeted by challenging crosswinds. The old airport was situated in heavily populated Kowloon City, with a single runway built on reclaimed land extending out to sea.

Kai Tak started to operate in 1930, becoming a key factor in Hong Kong's rise to prominence among international air destinations. By the 1960s, traffic had steadily increased, as Western airlines began to operate more flights to the Far East.

In 1993, Kai Tak handled 24.5 million passengers, surpassing its original design capacity. Three years later, it became the world's busiest cargo airport, handling 1.56 million tons, and the third-busiest international passenger airport, handling 29.5 million passengers.

By 1993, moves to replace overstretched Kai Tak were moving ahead. The government had announced its plan to build a new and larger airport in 1989. The new facility was destined for Chek Lap Kok, an island off Lantau Island, in the western part of Hong Kong.

Construction began in 1991. The new airport was to be served by nine additional facilities, including a high-speed rail system, a third cross-harbor tunnel linking Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and the new town of Tung Chung.

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