First landing at Chep Lap Kok Airport Hong Kong's new international airport at Chek Lap Kok passed a major milestone on 20 February, 1997 when the first aircraft touched down.

Admittedly, the flight was only a short hop by a Raytheon Beech Super King Air from Hong Kong's existing airport, Kai Tak, carrying dignitaries to mark the start of flight test trials on the new southern runway. Yet for the Airport Authority Hong Kong it was an historic moment, putting Chek Lap Kok on course to open in April.

The airport development has not been without its controversy, as the Awards judging panel noted. Most recently there have been running battles with airlines over the level of charges compared with Kai Tak. Despite these reservations, the panel decided that the airport project stands as an important landmark in the much longer term battle to provide badly needed new infrastructure in Asia.

The project has certainly been a mammoth operation over the past five years. The construction of the two 3.8km runways on the offshore site was itself a feat of engineering, involving one of the largest excavation and reclamation projects ever undertaken. In all, the contractors moved 347 million m³ of material - moving 10t every second. The project was completed in mid-1995 within budget and ahead of schedule. The airport authority is still working with 17 government departments and 80 business partners to ready the airport for opening.

The plan is for the airport to handle 35 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of cargo in its first year, operating with a single runway. The capacity will grow again when the second runway comes on line towards the end of 1998, with an ultimate design capacity of 87 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo.

The airport is designed for all-weather and all-hours operation. The flight trials on the Southern runway included checks of its instrument landing system for Category II precision approaches. The northern runway will operate to Category IIIa.

Source: Flight International