Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

Kai Tak Remembered

In Airports, Aviation, Aviation History, Civil Aviation, Hong Kong, Uncategorized on 20 July 2011 at 00:49

Hong Kong International Airport at Kai Tak closed for business on July 6 1998 to be replaced by the superb new facility built on reclaimed land at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island.

The two airports are like chalk and cheese; one futuristic, the other was long past its sell by date; but there are still plenty who mourn the demise of the old place. Many are pilots who readily recall the adrenalin rush as they guided their aircraft along the instrument guidance system (IGS) just a few hundred feet above densely populated Kowloon tenements towards the infamous orange and white-painted checker board. When this was in view and the aircraft correctly aligned at a height of just 675 feet (206 metres), a sharp 47 degree turn was required that took the aircraft through a sweeping curve before leveling out 150 feet (46 metres) from the runway threshold.

At night, a unique lighting system set precisely at 400-foot intervals on rooftops and specially built gantries guided pilots towards the runway centre line. As final approach was imminent the spacing between the lights decreased to 200 feet. The need to use lights to guide pilots in this way, enforced a ban on flashing neon signs throughout Hong Kong to avoid distracting inbound pilots. The weather was often bad; typhoons, micro-bursts and severe crosswinds added to the workload of pilots and in many respects Kai Tak was a major accident waiting to happen. A few errant aircraft did end in the shallow waters of Kowloon Bay and it was indeed fortuitous that no commercial airliners ever came down on the crammed dwellings of Kowloon or missed the turn to end up ploughing into Lion Rock. This was due mainly to extremely good aviation skills, excellent air traffic control and, more specifically in the early days, an amazing element of luck. The airport certainly had its share of incidents and many aviation enthusiasts will have seen the video on ‘You Tube’ that shows how close a Korean Air Boeing 747 came to disaster during an extreme weather landing in a typhoon. Read the rest of this entry »

The World’s First Scheduled Airline

In Aviation, Aviation History, Civil Aviation on 28 April 2010 at 17:22

St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line: World’s First Scheduled Airline

This article originally appeared in the June issue of  the US publication ‘Airways’ in May 2010

by Bob Bluffield

The Pioneer Airline

Who would have believed that a small US city of 9,000 souls would make history by setting the scene for the start of the World’s first scheduled airline?

“What was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment today, while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable.” Percival Fansler addressing the crowd gathered at St Petersburg Municipal Pier, January 1 1914 to watch the departure of the world’s first scheduled air service.

As we sit cosseted, drink in hand, in a comfortable air-conditioned cabin, travelling at almost the speed of sound seven miles above the earth, it is easy to become blasé about how far air travel has evolved since the first scheduled departure 95 years ago. Few of today’s passengers would have heard of the company, or be able aware of the route that it flew to establish the first scheduled passenger flights anywhere in the world; then would many really care? Yet, without the substantial risks taken by the enterprising early pioneers, aviation would have taken far longer to progress.

Although many countries were already competing to be first to make commercial passenger flights during the unsettled period immediately preceding the First World War, Europe had been paving the way. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin had founded Die Deutsche Luftschiffahrt Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG) The German Airship Transportation Company, on November 16 1909 and his company was already successfully carrying passengers, but in lighter than air dirigibles, between Freidrichshafen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, Potsdam and Dresden. The Hamburg-Amerika Shipping Line (HAPAG) had invested in the company and was responsible for booking seats on the six craft, of which three were later wrecked. Between March 1912 and November 1913 the company made 881 flights and carried 19,100 passengers over a distance totaling 65,000 miles. Overall, between 1910 and the outbreak of War in 1914, an estimated 34,000 passengers had been carried on over 1,500 flights mostly aboard the Hansa, Schwaben, Sachsen and Viktoria-Luise. But contrary to some earlier claims, it is generally accepted that most of these were no more than short pleasure flights putting the company’s claim to the title of the world’s first scheduled passenger air service into considerable doubt. Read the rest of this entry »