"The Shortest day"
The latest excursion to the Far East came more or less out of nowhere, the idea of re-visiting Hong Kong, a place we hadn't been to since 1998, being firmed up almost immediately after its inception late last year with the booking of a cheap return on Virgin Atlantic. Over the winter ideas of what could be done whilst in Hong Kong were knocked around, and it soon became clear that a return to another of our favourite destinations could be combined into the same trip. So our third visit to Hong Kong was also to include our second to mainland China, parts of which had been the scene of the superbly enjoyable Pamela Tang tour of spring 2002.
My trip began as usual with a British Airways flight to one of the London airports, and a couple of hours spent in the food court of Terminal 3 departures produced the first of what was expected and hoped to be many 'Single-Aisle' Airbus' made on the trip, the only two new at Heathrow being bmi's new type, A319 G-DBCA, and a new Iberia A321 EC-ILP. After the first couple of pints of the trip of the 'black stuff' in the Irish bar in T3 it was off to our mount for the always long sector to Hong Kong, Virgin A340-600 G-VGOA, a new type for me 'for haulage', and the superbly impressive aircraft leapt off 09R late in the evening. And what a great flight ! - I had encountered Virgin's new 'v-port' Inflight Entertainment System on the way back from Los Angeles on G-VBIG just a few weeks earlier, and it really is a wonderful system. Feeling quite awake I watched three films at my leisure ('Lost in Translation' - it really should have been Tokyo we were en-route to I suppose - 'School of Rock' - a surprisingly very entertaining piece, and a must-see for anybody who was brought up on 'Heavy Rock/Metal' in the 70s and 80s ! - and an unusual thing starring Ewan MacGregor called 'Young Adam' which is certainly the rudest film I've ever seen on an aeroplane !). With a few hours of sleep following we were soon descending into the Hong Kong area, one of our destinations of the following week being seen down below on our vectoring towards Chek Lap Kok, the runway at Macau stretching out into the South China Sea. The good weather soon became apparent as we passed to the north of the old Kai Tak airport, the basic outline of it still visible, and we allowed a little thought back to those great days we spent there in its twilight years to pass through our minds. We were brought back to the present with our first sight of CLK as we landed on 25R just as the sun was beginning to disappear in the western sky - a beautiful evening and a great welcome to what at first sight seemed to be a hugely impressive airport.
Arrival procedures were pleasantly speedy - no delays like has always been common when 'going west' - and the short walk to our home for the next two nights found us at the aptly named (although all top class hotels in this part of the world seem to be equally as impressive), Regal Airport Hotel, a large structure situated immediately to the north of the terminal building. We had secured a very reasonable airline staff rate here of 1200HKD a night, which was a significant saving on the published rates. Getting into the right room for our needs was a little more difficult, our first allocated room facing towards the terminal, but after a little negotiation we were soon in a 7th floor room overlooking the north apron, and the north runway/taxiway complex. CLK's terminal fingers are in a 'Y' shape, and all stands to the 'right' of this 'Y' were visible. The hotel's rooms are located in a large circle, with some facing inwards into the hotel atrium, and some facing out. It seems that the top floor, the 10th (there are an 11th and 12th but they only have executive rooms), only consists of rooms to the south of this 'ring' and therefore only provide views over the terminal building, while the 9th and 8th floors are assigned to night-stopping crews only. We got room 7056 which was one of the last in the 'ring' to face due west - any room with an even number up to about 7070 would be good for the enthusiast, with the 706.s possibly perfect as they are on the 'bend' and would therefore give a better view onto the approach too. As it was we could only see aircraft as they passed 'abeam' us over the runway undershoot, so we had to be quick to read off landers - the northerly runway at CLK is always used by landing traffic, with the exception of freight arrivals, which mostly land on the southerly complex due to the location of the freight terminal on the south side of the airport.
One of the first landings to be spied from the room, in the now dark of the evening, was a Finnair arrival - too good to be true for it to be one of my last three MD-11s ? - not at all, as the aircraft very conveniently parked right in front of our window ..... down to two !!. We found it difficult to read aircraft off in the dark, so we 'went out for the evening', a short walk to the terminal, and surprise surprise, an Irish Bar we'd spied on our walk through the arrivals level. 'Katie O'Connor's' did us proud with many a great example of the perfect pint and a great fish and chips ..... I was asleep as my head hit the pillow ..... Thursday had indeed been a very short day.
Seen on the taxi-in, and later from our room .... if anybody can help with the South African Airways A340-600 that would have arrived at lunch-time on Thu 11/3/04 or the EVA 767-200 that departed as EVA872 at 1915 then I would be very grateful ......
Thu 11/3/04 Hong Kong-Chek Lap Kok HKG/VHHH
4X-ECD 777-258ER 33169 405 El Al
5Y-KQV 767-3Y0ER 26206 487 Kenya Airways
9V-SPM 747-412 29950 1241 Singapore Airlines
B-18607 737-809 29104 139 China Airlines
B-18616 737-809 30175 1182 China Airlines
B-2250 MD-90-30 53523 2143 China Northern Airlines
B-2320 A.300B4-605R 0709 China Eastern Airlines
B-2382 A.340-313X 0141 China Eastern Airlines
B-6050 A.340-642 0468 China Eastern Airlines
B-HND 777-267 27264 31 Cathay Pacific Airways
B-HSH A.320-232 0877 Dragonair
B-HTH A.321-231 1984 Dragonair
B-HXL A.340-313X 0381 Cathay Pacific Airways
B-HYB A.330-342 0106 Dragonair
B-HYE A.330-342 0177 Dragonair
B-HYF A.330-342 0234 Dragonair
F-GSPN 777-228ER 29011 314 Air France
F-OHZQ A.330-301 0189 Philippine Airlines
OH-LGD MD-11 48513 564 Finnair
VH-OED 747-4H6 25126 858 Qantas
VH-OGQ 767-338ER 28154 623 Qantas
ZK-NCI 767-319ER 26913 558 Air New Zealand