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White Knuckle Flying March 29, 2008

Posted by Michael in Personal Experiences.

In your professional life, there are rites of passage. For international business travelers, Kai Tak airport used to be one of them.

For air travelers, nothing was scarier than the landing approach to Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak airport. I did this a couple of times, and recall looking into the windows of apartments at families having dinner not very far away, along with a very steep right bank and hard landing.

At the time, Kai Tak was considered to be the most hazardous approach at a major airport on this planet, because of that steep bank turn, flying through a heavily populated valley, strong cross-winds requiring a sideways “crab” landing, very short runway, and water at the end of the runway. It was like Boeing 747’s doing a carrier landing.

No autopilot — the captains did this by the seat of their pants.


Here are some more pics that give you the idea.

The list of accidents at Kai Tak is intimidating.

Or look at this:

Man, that plane got smacked down hard.

To tell the truth, flying into Kai Tak was kinda fun. Back in the day, sitting through this landing was sort of a test for international road warriors.

It was like being a young lawyer in downtown St. Louis thirty years ago, and being challenged to eat a Slinger at the original O.T. Hodge’s Chili Parlor, and then trying not to fall asleep at your desk in the afternoon, while you are trying to rack up billable hours.

A rite of passage.


1. kevlarchick - March 29, 2008

Good Lord! I usually grab the arm of the person next to me at some point during most flights. I would have dislocated your shoulder on this one.

2. Michael - March 29, 2008

KC, some chick did that to me in New Zealand on an adventure helicopter flight involving some aerobatics. Seriously, my left arm was white and numb from her death grip, but her head was buried in my chest and she was scared shitless, so what could I do?

So, I know what you are talking about.

3. BrewFan - March 29, 2008

Domestically, I nominate John Wayne in OC as the hairiest for takeoff and landing. Depending on the runway you will do ‘combat’ takeoff and landings because of the noise abatement rules.

4. Lipstick - March 29, 2008

I nominate St. Barts airport.

Or as my sister calls it: Holy Shit Airport.


5. eddiebear - March 29, 2008

I love how at that airport, the drivers duck down.

As for Hodge’s:
Good times. Good times. My dad used to get some Hodge’s at least once a month for dinner on his way home from work when he worked Downtown.

My wife was aghast when she first went into Hodge’s. She almost refused to go in there.

6. XBradTC - March 30, 2008

I’ve been in an out of JWOC (KSNA). My office looks over the runway. Never thought it was that bad. In fact, I always thought it looked worse watching from the ground.

I’ve been on a couple of puddle jumpers that really had me white knuckled, but no Kai Tek.

7. Michael - March 30, 2008

My wife was aghast when she first went into Hodge’s.

The great thing about the original OT Hodge’s downtown store is that, in the early days when there was just one restaurant, before they started franchising, they had the rudest waitresses on earth.

It was special.

You could go in there, and the crowd was 70% guys with hardhats and 30% yuppie professionals. The waitresses were !00% bitches who would abuse everyone and put you in your place.

It was like, well, a St. Louis downtown thing. Go to OT Hodge’s and get insulted by a waitress.

Plus, the chili was really good.

8. eddiebear - March 30, 2008

^and the downtown location had a lot of panhandlers hanging around back in the 80s.

I think all of the satellite locations are now closed. I know the Crestwood one (near my dad’s company before he closed it down) closed a few years ago. I’m not sure about the rest.

9. Bart - March 30, 2008

Is this a repost?

It looks and sounds awful familiar.

10. Michael - March 30, 2008

Is this a repost? It looks and sounds awful familiar.

Yes. I’ve talked about OT Hodge’s before. So, Bart, fuck you. After two years, I’m running out of new material. Deal with it. Read the Kai Tak airport post — that’s new.

11. Michael - March 30, 2008

To be honest, I think I have written about Kai Tak before. Somewhere.

12. geoff - March 30, 2008

mesablue wrote about a similar type of place in Chicago.

13. Dave in Texas - March 30, 2008

Have been grabbed by frightened women on a plane a few times. Perfectly understandable.

Now if a guy grabbed my arm, I would have looked at him reassuringly, then screamed WE’RE GOIN IN! at him until he cried.

14. eddiebear - March 30, 2008

My boss at my old job was a woman, and she was afraid to fly. So much so, she had to take sedatives before the trips. One time, I went on a work trip with her, and at one point, she was so scared when the pilot started talking, she grabbed onto my arm and damn near ripped it off.

15. Air Travel+Karaoke=No Thanks! I’ll Take A Covered Wagon Instead « Innocent Bystanders - December 5, 2008

[…] Let’s not forget –  White Kuckle Flying. […]

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