1977 Aerial views from the Flying Doctor | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1977 Aerial views from the Flying Doctor

Kung Hei Fat Choy! We start the New Year with a guest post from Michael Powell, who takes us on a helicopter trip from Kai Tak over Kowloon to the New Territories:

It's Christmas Eve 1977 and the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Airforce Helicopter HKG 2 is taxiing from RAF Kai Tak prior to take off at Kai Tak Airport. We are on our way to the east side of The New Territories to visit some of the remotest villages to give medical assistance where required.

Flying Doctor Trip. RAF Kai Tak. 24:12:1977 (1).jpeg


Airborne, we can look down at Kai Tak.

Flying Doctor Trip. Kai Tak.  24:12:1977 (2).jpeg


Then we head approximately north over Kowloon City. Dead centre is a white block of flats with redish stripes along its length. That was Block 5, Sunderland Road, RAF Married Quarters and where I lived. Below the block of flats is Kowloon Tsai Park,and just to the right is The Chequer Board used by pilots on the approach to Kai Tak Airport. Bottom right of the photo and either side of the aircraft structure you can make out Kowloon Walled City.

Flying Doctor Trip. Kowloon City. 24:11:1977 (3).jpg


Heading to the line of hills behind Kowloon, we see Beacon Hill, Unicorn Ridge and Lion Rock (obscured by aircraft structure). Bottom left corner you can see where Waterloo Road heads into Lion Rock Tunnel. Dead centre of the photo you can make out a path leading up to Unicorn Ridge. This is the route I used to run up to the ridge, along to Beacon Hill then back down the winding road and home to Sunderland Road.

Flying Doctor Trip. Unicorn Ridge. 24:12:1977 (4).jpg


After passing Lion Rock and Shatin, we're looking down on Chinese University. As you may realise this area (like most of Hong Kong) looks very different today.

Flying Doctor Trip. Chinese University. 24:12:1977 (5).jpg


A closer view of Chinese University before we head out over Tolo Harbour.

Flying Doctor Trip. University&Tolo Hbr. 24:12:1977 (6).jpg


Now we're over Tolo Harbour, looking towards Tai Po.

Flying Doctor Trip. Tolo Hbr & Ta Po. 24:12:1977 (7).jpg


Our first stop is at the junction of Ting Kok Road at San Tau Kok to pick up the Doctor. His VW Beetle is parked in the shade by the trees.

Flying Doctor Trip. Pick up point for the doctor at the junction of Ting Kok Rd and San Tau Kok. His beetle beside the tree. 24:12:1977 (8).jpg


Our next stop is Cheung Sheung, but they don't have anyone who needs to see the doctor.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (9).jpg


On to Pak Sha O which is a fortified village. Just left of the telegraph pole the Doctor is being met by villagers and to the right the pilot is walking towards them.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (10).jpg


Here's the helicopter, Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Airforce Helicopter HKG 2, with Pak Sha O in the background.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (11).jpg


On again, and we're approaching Lai Chi Wo Village. We will land in front of the two white buildings just right of centre. The building on the left is Hok Shan Temple and Hip Tin Temple. The building on the right is Siu Ying School.

Flying Doctor Trip. Lai Chi Wo.  24:12:1977 (12).jpg


These are some of the decorations on the temples at Lai Chi Wo. Inside the temples are a number of friezes showing a number of dolls that were made from soft mud (very fragile). 

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (13).jpeg


Some of the village children come down to see us off from Lai Chi Wo. The white building top right is part of the Temple complex mentioned previously. I now have a photograph of myself and my wife Wendy sitting in this exact spot on 29/9/2019. That is another story though.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (14).jpg


This is Sam A Tsuen. They don't need to see the doctor on this visit ...

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (15).jpg


... nor do the villagers at Sai Wan.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (16).jpg


The doctor, walking to meet residents at Tai Long.

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (17).jpg


The doctor, crewman and pilot at Tai Long. From here it was back to RAF Kai Tak. I was out of film at this point. Oh for a digital camera back then!

Flying Doctor Trip. 24:12:1977 (18).jpg


Thanks to Michael for sharing his photos and memories with us. All the scenes look very different today, so it's a treat to see these aerial views from the 1970s. I asked Michael if he could tell us some more about his time in Hong Kong.

I was an RAF Airframe Fitter and was posted to 28 Squadron, Wessex Helicopters, based at RAF Kai Tak. I was flown to Hong Kong with my wife and young son in an RAF VC10. We left the UK from RAF Brize Norton, called in at Bahrain before landing at RAF Kai Tak.

Late evening and we were taken to the Shamrock Hotel, 223 Nathan Road. At the time the MTR was being built and the taxi could not park outside the hotel on Nathan Road. We were deposited on the pavement of Pilkem Street and the driver, without telling us, promptly took off to get help from the hotel. Welcome to another world I thought. At that moment in time we didn't know where Kowloon was, never mind Nathan Road or the Shamrock so we could have been on the far side of the moon for all we knew. After what seemed an age at the time, help arrived from the hotel and escorted us to the main entrance.

If you look at the hotel from across Nathan Road the building to its left was not there in 1976. From our room at the side of the hotel we could see crowds of people on the road in front of the hotel and we thought there was a festival of some sort going on. Ha ha, little did we know of Hong Kong, we soon learned that this amount of activity was normal. Two days later the RAF moved us up Waterloo Road to our flat at Block 5, Sunderland Road, Kowloon Tong.

The Flying Doctor Trip was a one-off, as I was not part of the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force. I only went along as a passenger and general dogsbody if anything went wrong, but it was a great opportunity to take these photos!

Altogether I was in Hong Kong for three years 1976 to 1979. I took part in the move from RAF Kai Tak to Shek Kong when RAF Kai Tak closed and moved into Tai Po Court at the far end of Route Twisk, very close to Sheung Tsuen. The row of restaurants in Sheung Tsuen are almost exactly as they were in 1978. Wendy and I have been back to Hong Kong in 2014,15, 16, (17 with my then 7 year old grandson AJ) and 2019. We had booked for 2018 but I was unfortunately ill. We will be there again in 2020, 25 Oct to 6 Nov. Once again my now 10 year old grandson AJ will accompany us. We have friends from our second visit in 2015 and see them on every visit.


More photos to enjoy: