The aircraft descended on an initial heading of North-East. This took the plane over the harbour and then over west Kowloon. This part of the approach was done with an instrument guidance system. Passengers who had not been to HK before found this quite thrilling, as they got their first views of the place, but they were unprepared for what happened next...
The final part of the approach was necessarily done visually.
You flew up to the "chequerboard", two miles from touchdown, and at six hundred and fifty feet you turned Right 47 degrees, like this:
not like this....
You exited the turn at 140 feet and lined up for the runway, avoiding collecting any washing lines on the wing tips...
Here is a local, doing it properly...
whilst coming from the east, to land on Runway 31, you lined up over the harbour, avoiding the characteristic "midstreaming" container lighters with their large derricks, but keeping in mind that a go round that failed to avoid Lion Rock could spoil your whole day... (it happened)
You were meant to touch down on the wheels, not the port outer engine...(this was a common mishap, caused by not flying right up to the chequerboard, which meant that you were too far to the South when you lined up the runway - the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company did quite well out of engine strikes)
and you were meant to land on the runway...
Here's a cockpit video of the approach to 13, taken near the final days of Kai Tak from, I think, CX 250 (a 747 from London)
Personally I made it a rule always to fly Cathay Pacific, on the grounds that all their pilots lived in Hong Kong (company rule) and therefore they got lots of practice!
Now, I think we need a picture of Sir Kai Ho (note he was very Anglicised and reversed his name so that his surname came last in the Western manner - his family name was Ho:
and Mr Au Tak:
both of whom formed a company to reclaim land for housing on the Kowloon side of the harbour, but they both died before the project was finished and the company went into liquidation, which gave the Government an opportunity to buy the reclaimed land as a seaplane base.
The land reclaimed by these two gentlemen was not of course the long runway extending into the harbour; that was built to take jets, in the later 1950's.
The original Kai Tak Airfield was a grass runway; used by the RAF and to a very limited extent by commercial aviation.
My friend Freddie Clemo recalled seeing the start of Japanese attack on Hong Kong; he was serving in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and on the morning of Pearl Harbour he was sailing in the harbour with a girlfriend when he saw the first wave of Japanese aircraft come over with unfriendly intent,
He was stationed at the airfield and he got there as fast as he could, just in time to see the RAF pilots of the five biplanes stationed there "scramble" for their planes for the next wave - rather unsucessfully, according to Freddie, because the standard RAF parachute of the day hung down behind you and you could not run fast wearing it, so most of the planes were taken out on the ground.
More of Freddie's recollections of the Battle of Hong Kong later.
The Japanese developed the airfield, (well, it would be more correct to say that Allied prisoners of war working for the Japanese developed the airfield) concreting two runways, old 13/31` and 7/25
The red arrow is pointing to the old RAF hangar which as you can see is the wrong side of the road. The road had to be closed to fly off or land on 13/31 as you can see. This whole area was the apron in the later days of Kai Tak.
In this 1957 map the old runways are about to go out of use and the new 7,200 feet 13/31 is about to be commissioned: