The runway lights at Kai Tak will go out in the early hours of 6 July, bringing to a close a distinguished 73-year history. During the night, some 30 aircraft will make the short flight to Chek Lap Kok, 25km (13nm) to the west, in readiness for a 0630 start to business and a new chapter in Hong Kong commercial aviation.
The move represents almost as big a logistical challenge as the building of the airport itself. "This really is an exercise for Hong Kong Inc, requiring the co-ordination of everyone," says Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD) director Richard Siegel. "Nobody has moved a 30 million passenger capacity airport before."
The move is taking place by land, sea and air, involving the CAD, Hong Kong Airport Authority (HKAA), New Airports Co-ordination Office, the local police, transport, highways, marine departments and even the observatory. In the unlikely event of a typhoon on the night of the relocation, Kai Tak stands to get a seven-day reprieve.
A five-stage move is mapped out and has been under way since 6 May, with the fourth and most critical phase scheduled for an 8h window on 5-6 July. A total of 10,000 separate consignments is planned by the time of the opening. "We would like to get this down to around 1,000 road movements on the actual night," says HKAA corporate development director Clinton Leeks.
Hong Kong's Government Flying Service and its wing of 11 Raytheon Beech King Airs and Sikorsky S-70 and S-76 helicopters was the first to relocate, on 22 June. One of the last residents to move in will be Dragonair and its parent company, China National Aviation, which will share a new 32,500m2 (350,000ft2) joint facility when finished in late 1999.
The largest home user will be Cathay Pacific Airways, with its 64-strong jet fleet. The carrier will not complete the move to its new HK$4.2 billion Chek Lap Kok headquarters complex until the end of the year, when a new 14-simulator bay flight training centre will open. "I think it's going to be a great airport," says Cathay chairman Peter Sutch, "and, if my only concern at this stage is the air conditioning, I can't actually have too many worries."