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Oral History Expert Reveals Findings of Hong Kong’s First Airport Study Covering Longest Period of Time

April 22, 2014 Airport No Comments Email Email

According to respondents taking part in Hong Kong’s first and longest airport study, the Chek Lap Kok era of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is beginning to resemble the latter days of its old site at Kai Tak in Kowloon City, when the fully maximised airport was one of the busiest in the world.

This was just one of the interesting findings revealed in a comprehensive survey of over 80 respondents – most of whom have witnessed the airport’s development over the last several decades – and a review of more than 2,000 archival records including newspaper articles, historical and official documents, and other reference materials.

The historical study was commissioned by Airport Authority Hong Kong (the AA) in 2013 as part of a commemorative programme marking HKIA’s 15th anniversary. It was conducted by Dr Lau Chi-pang, Director of the Hong Kong Local Records Office and Associate Professor of the Department of History at Lingnan University, who has published a number of books over the past decade on Hong Kong’s history. He is the author or editor of “The Collective Memory of Hong Kong People during the Japanese Occupation” (2009); “So Uk Estate: The Collective Memory of Hong Kong People Living in Public Housing” (2010); “An Oral History of Chung Ying Street” (2010); and “Kwong Wah Hospital during the SARS Period” (2013).

Speaking today at an event held to share the findings of the study, Dr Lau said, “Hong Kong’s first airport was built for military purposes in the 1920s. About a decade later, Hong Kong’s first airport terminal came into service, marking the beginning of civil aviation in the city. Looking back on the city’s history, the robust growth and development of civil aviation has not only helped form and shape today’s Hong Kong, but has also made flying accessible to its people while connecting our city to the rest of the world. One can hardly imagine what Hong Kong would have been like if civil aviation hadn’t taken off.”

Dr Lau added that when the airport moved to Chek Lap Kok in 1998, Hong Kongers and visitors from around the world no longer had to suffer from the highly congested airport environment of Kai Tak, and that civil aviation was given ample room to thrive. However, he emphasised that survey respondents were beginning to note similarities between the era of the mid- to late 1990s and today’s HKIA.

“The old Kai Tak airport reached its capacity in the late 1980s, and the new airport at Chek Lap Kok has provided the much-needed facilities to handle Hong Kong’s increasing air traffic demand,” Dr Lau said. “But our survey revealed concerns that HKIA is once again reaching capacity. Through this study, we hope to be able to pass on the invaluable experience that we learned from the old Kai Tak days.”

The AA said it wants to preserve an important part of Hong Kong’s history by publishing the findings of the study in a set of two books, along with the oral history provided by some of the respondents. The books will be available this summer.

Spokespersons also said the AA is building a collection of images to immortalise the airport’s history by launching a contest, which invites people to contribute photos related to the old Kai Tak airport and the current Hong Kong International Airport. Subject matter includes pictures of airport facilities, celebrities who have travelled through the airports, and touching reunions and farewells. To help tell the story behind each photo, entrants are encouraged to include captions of 50 words or less. There is no limit to the number of submissions per entrant, and photos can be submitted by mail, uploaded online at www.hkairportphotos.com or emailed to submission@hkairportphotos.com. Winning entries may be featured in the completed book, and three grand prize winners will receive complimentary air tickets.

Appendix: Photo collection campaign

Campaign period : 17 April 2014 – 16 May 2014
Online submission : Visit the campaign website at www.hkairportphotos.com and follow the instructions to upload photo(s) and caption(s)
E-mail submission : Email photo(s) and caption(s) together with the entrant’s name, first four digits of his/her HKID or passport number, and contact number tosubmission@hkairportphotos.com (File size of each photo should be between 1MB and 5MB. They should be submitted in JPEG format. Each submitted email should not exceed 15MB in file size. There is no limit to the number of submissions per entrant.)
Mail submission : Send photo(s) and caption(s) together with the entrant’s name, first four digits of his/her HKID or passport number, contact number and a return envelope with the mailing address by mail to Golin/Harris International Limited, 6/F Oxford House, Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. Please mark “Entry for Photo Collection Campaign” on the envelope.

(Entrants must provide a valid mailing address to have their photos returned.)

Judging criteria 

  1. Ability to demonstrate the uniqueness of Hong Kong’s airport
  2. Historical value
  3. Emotional appeal of the photo
  4. Photographic skill and composition

Prizes

Grand Prize (3 winners) Each winner is entitled to two round-trip Economy Class air tickets to any Asian destination, plus a copy of the book set.
Dr Lau Chi-pang, Director of the Hong Kong Local Records Office and Associate Professor of Department of History, Lingnan University, shares the findings of the historical research study on the development of airport in Hong Kong.
Dr Lau Chi-pang, Director of the Hong Kong Local Records Office and Associate Professor of Department of History, Lingnan University, shares the findings of the historical research study on the development of airport in Hong Kong.
(From left to right) Rita Kwan, Airport Supervisor, Cathay Pacific Airways; Ir William Leung, Head of Line Service, Hong Kong Business Aviation Center, Henry Ma, General Manager, Airfield, Airport Authority Hong Kong and Dr Lau share their fond memories of working in both Kai Tak and Chek Lap Kok airport together.
(From left to right) Rita Kwan, Airport Supervisor, Cathay Pacific Airways; Ir William Leung, Head of Line Service, Hong Kong Business Aviation Center, Henry Ma, General Manager, Airfield, Airport Authority Hong Kong and Dr Lau share their fond memories of working in both Kai Tak and Chek Lap Kok airport together.
Mr Ma shares his memories when working in Kai Tak.
Mr Ma shares his memories when working in Kai Tak.
Ir Leung shows one of his tools during his time of repairing aircraft.
Ir Leung shows one of his tools during his time of repairing aircraft.
Ms Kwan highlights the difference in passenger profile in Kai Tak and Chek Lap Kok.
Ms Kwan highlights the difference in passenger profile in Kai Tak and Chek Lap Kok.
Members of the public are welcome to submit any photos related to the airport with written captions of 50 words or less that help tell the story behind each photo. Entries from the photo collection campaign may be included in the book to be published this summer.
Members of the public are welcome to submit any photos related to the airport with written captions of 50 words or less that help tell the story behind each photo. Entries from the photo collection campaign may be included in the book to be published this summer.

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