I visited Hong Kong in 1967. When my plane landed, it was overcast. All of the maneuvers where done with nothing but white fog outside. Then suddenly, I saw skyscrapers outside my window and ocean below. Suddenly, we touched down, and still, all I saw was ocean out the window.
Hong Kong was NOT what I expected. I expected something like Vietnam in 1970. It was a surprise!
In the days of the Rhodesian war (late 70s) a couple of civilian aircraft were shot down. Accordingly pilots (especially of the few foreign airlines flying there) were very nervous and recommended procedure was to make an approach very similar to that you described. Steep turns just off the end of the runway. I quite enjoyed it, and so (I gather) did some of the pilots, but a lot of passengers didn't...
I lived in HK for 2 years in the early 80s, and was always TERRIFIED flying into Kai Tak. Took the ferry from HK Island to Kowloon every day to get to work and saw huge planes doing impossible maneuvres every single day. It was bad, as Max said, to look out your window and see people playing mah jongg while yu clutched your seat. After you'd flown in and out a bit, it was even more scary in the fog or rain, when you couldn't see! But I never did hear of a serious accident, while living there or since...
The funny thing is that, as the years go by, you start to think that you may be exaggerating things to yourself... so I'm delighted to receive confirmation from you -- I wish I could have seen this from a hotel also (but only AFTER I'm made my first landing :-)
Flying into Kai Tak before it closed is one experience I will never forget and so glad I had the chance to do. I remember sitting in my hotel room in Wanchai overlooking the runway across the harbour for an hour one afternoon. Watching 747's performing a right-angle turn 150 feet off the ground was unforgettable. At that time (early 90's) I think Kai Tak was seeing a plane land on its single runway approximately every two minutes. Glad I did it once but, honestly, glad I can fly into Chek Lap Kok these days!
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