Landing at Kai Tak Airport

Ask any aviation¬†enthusiast¬†and they will tell you that Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong is famous for its crosswinds and dramatic landings. Here’s one involving a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-400:

It’s a pity they switched to a new airport while I was there a few years back. Would have loved a rollercoaster-like landing.


The reason for such a maneuver at the final approach is clearly shown on the approach chart above in the area circled in red. It was a modified ILS approach, named IGS 13 (Instrument Guidance System, Runway 13), or unofficially known as the Checkerboard Approach. This approach is known as the checkerboard approach because there is a checkerboard painted on the side of the hill to guide pilots in.

Basically planes will approach from the west (left of chart) at heading 088 and intercept the ILS. The ILS will then guide the plane to the checkerboard and right before the checkerboard the pilots will have to make a right turn to runway 13.

The video below is shot from the checkerboard, showing the approach of a Thai Airways Boeing 777:

This video was shot from the cockpit of a Boeing 747 during approach to Kai Tak Runway 13. From the video you can see the pilots flying towards the checkboard before turning sharply to the right to runway 13:

You can see the checkerboard if you go to the top of Kowloon Tsai Park. Here’s a photo at the top: If you have Flight Simulator X you can purchase an add-on to fly the checkerboard approach:

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