Waiting for a flight to Toronto – 1 July 2008

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Hong Kong is an airport mega-hub and a real must see for any planespotter! Sure, as the airport that replaced Kai Tak, Chek Lap Kok doesn’t have the glamour or the excitement of a downtown location, but this is one great airport and one that is surprisingly spotter friendly if you’re transiting.

Located on the northern side of Lantau island, the airport was built on reclaimed land and so has been able to incorporate all of the features that passengers now expect of a modern airport. It has excellent rail and road links to Hong Kong proper, has all the shopping you’d expect of an Asian gateway, and plenty of restaurants, bars and other facilities.

Worth noting for the planespotter, are the excellent ‘Traveler’s Lounge’ facilities located on each of the East and West departure areas. For a reasonable fee, your family can spend as much time there as they like making use of showers, free Internet access, all day food and beverage buffet, magazines, TV and even massage chairs, while you go spotting for as long as you like. It doesn’t get much better than that!

As for the spotting – well, it’s got the lot. All of the world’s major airlines, cargo galore, Chinese and Asian carriers, all in non-stop action. If you’re bored here, then give up on spotting, because this is as good as it gets.

This visit was my first since 1992 when Kai Tak was still operational, and I was fully expecting to be hassled by security and have to be a bit careful about openly walking around with a camera and big lens, but nothing could have been further from the reality! I was able to go anywhere within the departures area taking shots of any planes I liked and no one said a word! Security was low key and the uniformed officers that I did see never even gave me a second look. Planespotting the way it should be . . .

All of that is no good though if you can’t get a decent view of the action, and again I was pleasantly surprised. The departures level has huge glass windows giving panoramic views of the aprons and runways, so all you have to do is get the best angle for the sun and off you go. The only drawback is the glass tinting, but a bit of Photoshoping generally takes care of that quite easily and produces shots that are more than acceptable.

These pictures were taken on 1 July 2008 as my family and I waited to board our Cathay Pacific flight to Toronto, Canada, a 15 3/4 hour non-stop schlep that went by surprisingly quickly, thanks in no small part to the excellent Cathay service and an in-flight entertainment system that will keep most teenagers occupied for hours on end!

So, here we go, a quick shot across the apron with Vietnam Airlines A321 VN-A354 crowded with ground facility vehicles, while in the background China Airlines 747-400 B-18205 departs off runway 25 Left

VN-A354 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9341-2

This could only be Hong Kong! Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER B-KPC along with Cathay A330 B-LAD against a backdrop of towering apartment blocks and tree covered hillsides. This whole area has been developed with the airport and must be home to a good few thousand people. B-LAD was Cathay’s 100th aircraft and wears a special livery in celebration.

B-KPC Cathay Pacific 777-367-ER 9343-2

Vietnam Airlines A321 VN-A351 taxis towards the stand. Delivered on 24 January 2007, this aircraft has been leased to Cambodia Angkor Air since 30 July 2009.

VN-A351 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9344-2

VN-A351 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9345-2

Pushback for Cathay Pacific A340-313X B-HXI.

B-HXI Cathay Pacific A340-313X 9347-2

This could only be Hong Kong! Delivered to Cathay Pacific on 23 June, 1998, B-HXI has spent its entire operational life with Cathay.

B-HXI Cathay Pacific A340-313X 9350-2

The Triple-7 in the right of the picture is the plane we took to Toronto, B-KPH.

B-HXI Cathay Pacific A340-313X 9353-2

This shot was taken from the departure level on the ground floor looking out to one of the aircraft stands. From here we took a bus to our jet, B-KPH.

VN-A351 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9354-2

After getting off the bus next to -KPH, I went up to the forward passenger door and quickly took this shot of Cathay 747-400 B-HKT. One of the flight attendants came out and I asked if it was OK for me to take a few shots. To my amazement, she said ‘Sure, stay as long as you like, I’ll let you know when you need to come in!’ I could hardly believe it . . . Imagine that in most places around the world . . . So, my wife and kids went to their seats leaving me to lap it all up!

Behind -HKT and the departing United Airlines 747-400, you can see part of the cargo facilities, where I reckon I can count 8 747 freighters, belonging to Korean Air Cargo, what looks like Atlas Air Cargo, Dragonair Cargo and Cathay Pacific Cargo.

B-HKT Cathay Pacific 747-412 9355-2

Parked behind our aircraft was B-LAD, Cathay’s 100th aircraft wearing its commemorative livery.

B-LAD Cathay Pacific A330-343X 9357-2

Our aircraft was parked next to the main taxiway for runway 25L, and here Dragonair Airbus A320, B-HSJ, passes by on it’s way to the holding point.

B-HSJ Dragonair A320-232 9358-2

Just about to turn onto the runway, B-HKT has flaps set and is ready for take-off.

In the background, you can just make out some of the cabins on the Ngong Ping Cable Car, a 5.7km cable car ride that goes from Tung Chung to the Ngong Ping Plateau and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue. For more info, have a look here:

B-HKT Cathay Pacific 747-412 9359-2

Take-off power selected . . .

B-HKT Cathay Pacific 747-412 9361-2

Cathay Airbus A340-600, B-HQB, starts its take-off roll on 25 Left. Delivered to Cathay on 29 November 2002, this aircraft was put into storage during the Global Financial Crisis and then delivered on lease from ILFC to Hainan Airlines of China, registered B-6509, on 3 June 2009.

B-HQB Cathay Pacific A340-642 9386

The next couple of shots were taken from inside the plane – luckily, the windows were pretty clean! Vietnam Airlines A321 VN-A354 pushes back with the terminal building in the background. You can clearly see the windows that give such a good view of the aprons.

VN-A354 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9390-2

VN-A354 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9392

No sooner had VN-A354 vacated the area than VN-A351 pushed back.

VN-A351 Vietnam Airlines A321-231 9393-2

Another A321, this time Dragonair B-HTH. Not surprisingly, Dragonair jets are a common sight at Hong Kong, which is their home base, with A320’s, 321’s, 330’s and 747 freighters.

B-HTH Dragonair A321-231 9397-2

The best was saved for last though . . . I’d seen VT-AIA earlier from the terminal, but couldn’t get a decent shot, so when we taxied right past it, I knew this was just my lucky day! Air India used to operate A310’s into Perth during the mid-1990’s, but suspended operations after they were deployed on other routes, leaving them with no suitable aircraft for the Perth rotation. Those aircraft were all in the old livery, so this was my first opportunity to shoot one in their new colours – very nice!

VT-AIA originaly flew with Singapore Airlines as 9V-STA from March 1993 until March 2004, at which point it was acquired by Air India. It then flew with the Indian national carrier until early 2010, after which it was put into storage at Roswell, New Mexico, USA.

VT-AIA Air India A310-324 9400-2

After that, I wasn’t able to get any good shots, so it was time to sit back, relax, say bye-bye to Hong Kong, and look forward to arriving in Toronto – only 15 3/4 hours to go . . .

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