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jb747

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A request.

For a number of reasons, I'm writing down little tales about various parts of my aviation experience. Some are lengthy, whilst others are a couple of paragraphs. Some are for AFF, and others not.

So, with no promises. What would you like to see?

As ideas only, on the A-4 we have things like bombing, air to air refuelling, dogfighting. The 767 gives us things like the old HKG airport. I guess there are many more.

What would you like?

Don't put comments within the thread, just send me a message.
 

jb747

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Hong Kong, Kai Tak

This was a famous airport, loved by many for its last minute turn to line up for landing. The airport was nestled in a valley near hills, and the precluded the normal long finals that airliners do for most approaches.

The runway was 13/31. Landing on 31 was quite normal, as the approach path was reasonably clear. Taking off (or a go around) meant that a turn to the left was required shortly after the end of the runway. But, it was still within what most people would see as normal operations.

Landing on 13, on the other hand, made for one of the most spectacular flight paths anywhere in the world, as the aircraft seemed to be down amongst the buildings, and a 47º turn was required very late in the approach.

The actual instrument approach was called an IGS. Very much the same as an ILS, except that it didn’t lead to a runway. The vertical profile was the same as you needed to get to the runway, but it was offset. The approach ended at about 675’, at which point you had a little over two nautical miles to run. You couldn’t start the turn at the end of the approach though. That would not have given you the correct alignment as you’d cut the corner. You had to maintain your track, and descent profile, whilst heading towards the ‘checkerboard’. That was a very large checkered sign on a hill…which was right in front of you. I never went to the board, but I’m told that it was located in a cemetery.

As you continued to track towards the board, you were able to see white strobing lights. These were the only lights of their kind in that part of HK, and they stood out. The line of strobes gave you an ‘ideal’ track to the runway. Passing about 450’ you’d come to the first of the crossbars. That was a line of lights at 90º to the strobe track. That was approximately the point at which you’d have to start the turn. In calm conditions, it was only about 15-20º of bank. Bank was something you needed to have considered before you arrived at the turn. Assuming you’d done that, and held the turn, you’d arrive at a point about a kilometre from the end of the runway, pointed in the right direction.

You had to be careful throughout to ensure that you kept your descent rate. It was very easy in the turn to raise the nose slightly and so end up high as you rolled out. I don’t think I saw anyone tending low. In calm conditions, it was about 650 fpm, so from the end of the IGS to touchdown was only about one minute.

Of course, calm days in HK weren’t all that common. Wind would funnel down the valleys, and there was often severe shear as you climbed above, or went below, the ridge lines. Tailwinds down the IGS, which would swing around to either a headwind or strong crosswind at the runway were common. And that’s why you had to have a think about the bank angle, and general dynamics of the turn, before you go to it.

With a tailwind, the temptation was to turn earlier, but that would pull you off the strobes, cut the distance, and overall make it harder to convert the turn into a decent finals. In that case, you could go to the normal point, but use slightly more bank. You’d also need to have considered your sink rate. A big trap would come at the end. Not only did you have to complete the turn, but you needed to ensure the track was aligned with the runway, not the aircraft’s heading. So, in the case of the tailwind becoming crosswind, you’d need to turn through the runway, perhaps by as much as 15º. Stopping the turn too early, would have you starting to drift downwind, and there was very limited time to fix it.

While I was an FO on the 747, I only ever flew IGS approach. It wasn’t that the Captains didn’t give that sector away (although that was the case with some), but simply luck. So, it turned out that the very first IGS I did was actually the second last time I went there in a 747. Only a month later, I started command training on the 767. It was a requirement at the time that all command trainees on the 767 would go to HK, so for me the second landing off that approach was on my pre-final command check. After checking out though, HK was almost a second home, with the 767 going there from numerous ports. Whilst 747 FOs rarely got a go, on the 767 the approach was so common, that it was a regular FO sector. I recall giving it to one bloke on his very first sector after picking up that third bar. He did a good job too.

How could it go wrong? A few ways, but the most common was letting the aircraft get downwind, on the eastern side, of the ideal finals. What was generally caused by misjudging the bank required, and made much worst by failing to ‘turn through’ when you had a crosswind. It is always difficult to get an aircraft back on centreline if it’s downwind, and as the rollout point was at about 200’ there’s very little time left to fix it. My standard briefing was that if I were out by more than half of the distance from the centre of the runway to the edge, that I’d go around. I never had to, but it meant there was a solid limit point that the coughpit would work to.

Not everyone felt that way though… On one occasion the weather in HK had been atrocious for the past few days. We’d actually been unable to leave a couple of days previously, but had eventually flown to Bangkok. On this day we were to fly from BKK to HK, and then on to Singapore. We had a couple of hours on the ground in HK.

The weather was now clear, but there was a 30 plus knot tailwind down the IGS. At the ground, that swung to a final wind of a 15-20 knot crosswind. It was planned to be the FO’s sector, so I left it as that, but we had a talk about bank angles and speed control. I also suggested that instead of actually aiming for the middle of the runway throughout the turn, that he initially use the UPWIND side, and use the last few seconds of the turn to readjust to the normal point. He flew the approach, and did a lovely job of it. We then parked in one of the remote bays, which, luckily gave us a tremendous view of the sky from the end of the approach to the runway. We figured that we could feel smug as we’d done our arrival, and now we could watch everyone else.

Most of the operators had obviously thought about what they were doing, and didn’t give us much to talk about. But three certainly did. I won’t name the airlines. The first was an A310. That series of aircraft tends to have quite a pronounced nose up attitude during the approach. This guy flew the correct track, but throughout he had a nose low attitude, which he maintained right to the runway. From our point of view, he actually seemed to land nose gear first, which is a huge no-no. The reason for the attitude would be his speed. He was much faster than he should have been. After disgorging his passengers, he was airborne before us, so I guess the nose gear didn’t fall off, though I rather doubt that they looked.

The next was a VC-10ski (aka Ilyushin IL62). He simply turned too late. But, not to be defeated, he rolled on a lot of bank, and you could see a heavy smoke trail as the engines spooled up. He ended up in the correct spot, but you just had to wonder how close he was to the stall limit in the turn. Looked good though.

And the prize winner for the day was a European 747. He turned at about the right spot, but without sufficient bank. He ended up appreciably downwind, but kept coming. As he arrived over the runway, he still hadn’t corrected his track, but he tried to do that in the flare. The left outboard engine impacted the ground. There’s a good reason that you don’t use more than few degrees of bank near terra firma. He ultimately taxied past us, trailed by a couple of fire tenders, with the offending engine looking a bit second hand.

In 1997 it all came to an end, and all operations moved to the new airport built at Chep Lak Kok. This was a vastly better airport, with decent approaches to all of its runways. It’s still subject to some pretty nasty windshear, but is nowhere near the fun of Kai Tak.
 

Major

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I first went to HKG in 1969 and was told that Government regulations prohibited any flashing or moving advertising lights anywhere in Kowloon due to Kai Tak requirements.
 

RailFlyer

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Hong Kong, Kai Tak

Sounds like fun! What were the weather/visibility restrictions of that approach? I assume you had to be able to see the checker board? If it was still there today would a fully automatic approach be possible? Would any of the tech of more modern planes make it any easier?

I have a memory of my older brother telling me in the 90's that he'd asked if he could visit the coughpit on a flight to Hong Kong and was allowed to stay in jump seat for landing into Hong Kong (probably on BA)? Does that sound believable and was it allowed on QF in those days?
 

kookaburra75

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I have a lot of fond memories flying into the old Kai Tak airport. You could look out the window on approach and see what people were having for dinner. In mid 1998 I flew from Heathrow to Hong Kong on BA, and I had my nose buried in a book as usual, waiting for the 'fun' of the approach into Kai Tak. I was most disappointed when we were quietly trundling down the runway at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island. It was all very civilised.

And yes, the Chequerboard was in a cemetery. A lot of the funeral urns were buried in cemeteries in the side of the hills, When I was still working as a surveyor, one of our jobs was to map the old cemeteries so they could see what was what for future development.
 
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jb747

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Sounds like fun! What were the weather/visibility restrictions of that approach? I assume you had to be able to see the checker board?
Basically you needed to be clear of cloud at the bottom of the IGS. So a cloud base of about 675’. From that point you needed to be able to maintain visual. The visibility requirement from the chart (they can be found on the net) is 2,000m. You don’t actually need to be able to see the runway at the end of the IGS, but it should become visible fairly quickly. Flying the turn, at night, in limited visibility was one of the times when you earnt your crust.

If it was still there today would a fully automatic approach be possible? Would any of the tech of more modern planes make it any easier?
No, I don’t think so. The MLS (microwave) approach system showed promise for curved flight paths, but it never became mainstream. GPS would be helpful but I doubt that it would be sufficiently reliable given the terrain. There are simply times when you need to look out the window, and actually do some flying.

I have a memory of my older brother telling me in the 90's that he'd asked if he could visit the coughpit on a flight to Hong Kong and was allowed to stay in jump seat for landing into Hong Kong (probably on BA)? Does that sound believable and was it allowed on QF in those days?
Prior to September 11 visitors were welcome, and it was up to the Captain whether he allowed people for take off or landing. HK was very popular, and many people would ask.
 

flyer89

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How often was 13 in operation? Given that the new HK has completely different runway directions I have no reference. Was it a bit like CLK where 07’s are in use most of the time or was it more of a 50/50 shot?
 

jb747

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How often was 13 in operation? Given that the new HK has completely different runway directions I have no reference. Was it a bit like CLK where 07’s are in use most of the time or was it more of a 50/50 shot?

From what I recall of it, I'd say that 13 was in use slightly more than half of the time.

Over at the new airport, the runway use is seasonal. I forget the exact timing now, but 25 would get a workout for a few months at the appropriate time of the year. Singapore is much the same, with 02 in use around December, and 20 in July. You'd land with the aircraft pointed at whichever hemisphere was experiencing winter.
 
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Thanks for the Kai Tak story.
I had the fun of a number of visits to HKG from 1967 through early 70's before a long absence.

My first arrival in December 1967 was on a MSA Comet 4. I was sitting on right side on the approach to 13.
You could look over the wing into apartments and see people at their dining table. I understood there was no ILS until the mid 70's when the runway was extended.
It felt like you dropped onto the runway after clearing the last apartment blocks.

On another "13" runway ...
a couple of times I have been a passenger landing at JFK on 13R, and noted it was a reasonably tight curved approach only straightening up shortly before landing, reminiscent of Kai Tak.
Is that the standard approach to JFK 13R, or is it just one of a number of tracks to spread out the noise footprint ?
 

Kerrodt

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Hong Kong, Kai Tak

A great post. I wish I had the opportunity to fly into it.
If I looked on google maps, where would I find where this airport was?

Given the unique and challenging approach to this airport, do you know why it was built here? Were there no other better options or was it an airfield that when first built was suitable, but bigger aircraft made it more challenging?
 

jb747

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A great post. I wish I had the opportunity to fly into it.
If I looked on google maps, where would I find where this airport was?

Just type Kai Tak into google maps. It's pretty obvious.

Given the unique and challenging approach to this airport, do you know why it was built here? Were there no other better options or was it an airfield that when first built was suitable, but bigger aircraft made it more challenging?

All you never wanted to know: Kai Tak Airport - Wikipedia
 

jb747

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On another "13" runway ...
a couple of times I have been a passenger landing at JFK on 13R, and noted it was a reasonably tight curved approach only straightening up shortly before landing, reminiscent of Kai Tak.
Is that the standard approach to JFK 13R, or is it just one of a number of tracks to spread out the noise footprint ?

Spreading the noise footprint (which really means sending it to another electorate) is a peculiarly Australian game.

JFK is in close proximity to La Guardia, and traffic flows interfere with each other. When 13 is in use, the arrival used is the Canarsie, and that leads you to a late turn on to either of the 13s. It's also unusual in that it's one of very few approaches that has a low altitude, level segment. Normally a great deal of effort is put into ensuring that a -3º glide path is maintained, but that can't be done if you're going to 13L.

I've only flown it in the 747 sim, but it was a straightforward procedure. Nevertheless, Emirates managed to make a complete hash of it on a number of occasions by attempting to automate it, instead of just going back to basics.
 

ausfox

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Kai Tak has gone the way of so many airports undergoing redevelopment with many large structures and a cruise terminal on the bayside.
 
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Had a business need to do two SYD-MEL-SYD sectors across the last couple of weeks. First week on QF and second week on JQ. A couple of questions:

- would these and other sectors be given to the C&T guys and girls to ensure they are current and can get other crews up to speed as quickly as possible when things start to get back to normal?
- On QF the sectors time for SYD-MEL was down to 55 minutes and MEL-SYD down to 50 minutes. On JQ the SYD-MEL sector time remained around 80 minutes even though we were given a departure off 34L (rather than taxi all the way down to 34R). With JQ the MEL-SYD sector was similar to QF and back to 50 minutes. Given the reduction in the amount of traffic would ATC remove most speed restrictions and provide track shortening where available?
- An interesting one was landing into SYD. On both occasions the QF 737 and JQ A320 spent time (3-4 minutes) at the gate before shutting the engines down. We were given a roll through when landing on 34L with the taxi time less than a minute from leaving the active runway to pulling up at the gate. Is there a minimum amount of time needed to cool things down?
- It was sad to see the number of aircraft that are in storage on the taxiways and parking bays in each location (see attached view from T4 in Melbourne). Many QF, JQ, VA and TT aircraft. Engine cowlings, APU exhausts and all other ingress / egress points all buttoned up. How long can you reasonably keep an aircraft on the ground in that state before it becomes a significant job (cost, time, etc) to get them into a state where they can fly. Is there a point in time where sending them to the desert becomes a more viable option. Aside from the avionics and entertainment systems I would also imagine there are certain key components that rely on being maintained within a certain set of parameters (temperature, humidity and air pressure).
 

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jb747

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- would these and other sectors be given to the C&T guys and girls to ensure they are current and can get other crews up to speed as quickly as possible when things start to get back to normal?

I doubt that there will be anything quick about the return. You'll need about one sim per pilot per month away. After six months you'd need to redo a substantial part of the actual sim endorsement. Finding that sim time will be an interesting exercise in its own right. I don't know how much flying there is, but the only way to avoid a lengthy retraining process is going to be to limit the number of people who actually need it. So, that would mean sharing of the flying, across the entire spectrum of pilots.

- On QF the sectors time for SYD-MEL was down to 55 minutes and MEL-SYD down to 50 minutes. On JQ the SYD-MEL sector time remained around 80 minutes even though we were given a departure off 34L (rather than taxi all the way down to 34R). With JQ the MEL-SYD sector was similar to QF and back to 50 minutes. Given the reduction in the amount of traffic would ATC remove most speed restrictions and provide track shortening where available?

I can't tell without seeing the FR24 tracks. Are the times airborne, or gate to gate? 70-80 minutes is normal for gate to gate.

The only speed restriction would be 250k below 10,000. Removing it doesn't make all that much difference. Wind could well have varied dramatically, especially if the flights were a few days apart. Sydney ATC also don't own all of the airspace. There are military restricted areas all around Sydney, and I'd expect they are still operating.

Departing of 34L is faster than 34R, but they are both pretty slow. 16R is quickest departure.

- An interesting one was landing into SYD. On both occasions the QF 737 and JQ A320 spent time (3-4 minutes) at the gate before shutting the engines down. We were given a roll through when landing on 34L with the taxi time less than a minute from leaving the active runway to pulling up at the gate. Is there a minimum amount of time needed to cool things down?

There is a minimum time, which I'd expect to be around 3 minutes. That starts from selection of idle reverse on the runway. The 380 was 5 minutes. As the wait time sounds a bit longer than that, I wonder if they're not starting the APUs, but are waiting for ground power to be connected.

- It was sad to see the number of aircraft that are in storage on the taxiways and parking bays in each location (see attached view from T4 in Melbourne). Many QF, JQ, VA and TT aircraft. Engine cowlings, APU exhausts and all other ingress / egress points all buttoned up. How long can you reasonably keep an aircraft on the ground in that state before it becomes a significant job (cost, time, etc) to get them into a state where they can fly. Is there a point in time where sending them to the desert becomes a more viable option. Aside from the avionics and entertainment systems I would also imagine there are certain key components that rely on being maintained within a certain set of parameters (temperature, humidity and air pressure).

I don't know the timings, but the engineers will be going through all of the aircraft on a rotational basis, powering them up. If this goes on long enough that they start to talk of moving them, then I'd rather suspect that it would be on a permanent basis.
 
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I can't tell without seeing the FR24 tracks. Are the times airborne, or gate to gate? 70-80 minutes is normal for gate to gate.

Just checked FR24 for JQ520 for the 24/4. It was 59 minutes flight time with a 1646 actual departure time and a landing time at 1744. Some samples of the playback show the height / speed at 8,585ft/384kts, 5,546ft/302kts, 3,493ft/258kts. This landing was onto RWY16R.
 

AviatorInsight

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Had a business need to do two SYD-MEL-SYD sectors across the last couple of weeks. First week on QF and second week on JQ. A couple of questions:

- would these and other sectors be given to the C&T guys and girls to ensure they are current and can get other crews up to speed as quickly as possible when things start to get back to normal?

Not necessarily all of them would be C&T. They would be spreading the flying around to try and maintain currency as much as possible across the pilot group. At least that's VA's plan at the moment. We need to maintain 1 take off and landing every 45 days with 3 being done in 90 days. If we miss out on that recency then it's off to the sim, but still no word for us if sim sessions are being maintained. Or if we have an extension. My sim isn't due until June anyway.

CASA have given us a 6 month medical exemption.

As an example, I last flew 23 days ago so I'm actually good until mid May (45 days is still limiting for me). My name would have gone down to the bottom of the list after that day and I'm waiting now for my turn again.

- On QF the sectors time for SYD-MEL was down to 55 minutes and MEL-SYD down to 50 minutes. On JQ the SYD-MEL sector time remained around 80 minutes even though we were given a departure off 34L (rather than taxi all the way down to 34R). With JQ the MEL-SYD sector was similar to QF and back to 50 minutes. Given the reduction in the amount of traffic would ATC remove most speed restrictions and provide track shortening where available?

At the moment? YES! Lots of track shortening and high speed/speed restrictions being cancelled. Although BNE ATC only let us cut in on one waypoint which saved about 6 seconds...I wasn't complaining really, we were so early as it was and I was kind of cherishing every second I had in the air.

Also with the amount of traffic only one runway is required at the moment. So it's 34L/16R for all operations. Occasionally for noise sharing they'll use SODPROPS (Simultaneous opposite direction parallel runway operations) where they use 34L for arrivals and 16L for departures.

- An interesting one was landing into SYD. On both occasions the QF 737 and JQ A320 spent time (3-4 minutes) at the gate before shutting the engines down. We were given a roll through when landing on 34L with the taxi time less than a minute from leaving the active runway to pulling up at the gate. Is there a minimum amount of time needed to cool things down?

Yes at least 3 minute engine cool down is required at idle. Taxi thrust can be considered idle. The timing starts once idle reverse has been selected.

- It was sad to see the number of aircraft that are in storage on the taxiways and parking bays in each location (see attached view from T4 in Melbourne). Many QF, JQ, VA and TT aircraft. Engine cowlings, APU exhausts and all other ingress / egress points all buttoned up. How long can you reasonably keep an aircraft on the ground in that state before it becomes a significant job (cost, time, etc) to get them into a state where they can fly. Is there a point in time where sending them to the desert becomes a more viable option. Aside from the avionics and entertainment systems I would also imagine there are certain key components that rely on being maintained within a certain set of parameters (temperature, humidity and air pressure).

Like JB, I'm unsure of the timings, but it's necessary to get the oil moving around the engine and keep things lubricated. Aircraft need to be moved so as not to 'flat spot' on the tyres. So planes and pilots alike are happier when moving around!
 
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