China Aviation Law

Hong Kong Airport Needs a New Name – Sun Yat-Sen International Airport!


I think Hong Kong has one of the best airports in the world. It has everything a great airport needs. It is huge, but connected to public transportation. It clean and beauftiful with great views of the runways. Most important, it has the hallmark of civilized society free wifi.

Indeed, I think you can judge a lot about a city by the existence of free wifi at the airport. I'll check off the recent airports I've been to in the last few months. You decide the better cities. :-)

Free Wifi: Seattle, Portland, Montreal, Denver
Paid Wifi: Newark, Los Angeles, Dallas, Cleveland

But back to Hong Kong, every time I fly into Hong Kong there are two questions I've wondered about:

1. Why is it on the other side of the island from the city?

2. What is up with the funny name? Chek Lap Kok Airport

It turns out that the answer to the first question is a result of history and bigger aircraft. The current airport is not the first airport in Hong Kong. Originally, the international airport was located right in the middle of the city - Kai Tak Airport.

It prime location in the city lead to some amazing approaches and landings into the airport. Once famous "checkerboard" approach skimmed over the local apartments to touch down on the airport's one runway. Imagine having a 747 fly at eye level past your apartment every few minutes. Pretty intense stuff.

Here is an amazing video of that approach:

A victim of its one runway and limited length the local government decided to relocate the airport out to an area that would allow for smooth approaches and more runaways. This new location on Chek Lap Kok island and the sight of the current Hong Kong Airport.

2. So why couldn't they come up with a better name than the unpronoucable Chek Lap Kok?

It turns out I'm not the only person who has thought this was poor choice for such an awesome airport. Recently, there have been rumblings to rename the airport to something that touches on both China, Aviation, and relative Freedom that is Hong Kong - Sun Yat Sen.

The city’s aviation gateway is also known as Chek Lap Kok, named after an island flattened and extended to make way for the current airport to be built in the ’90s.

“Not just the father of the nation, you could say he [Sun] was also the father of aviation in China,” said Gordon Andreassand, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Historical Aviation Society.

Mr Andreassand’s speech at the inauguration of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology‘s aeronautic-interest group sparked interest among student population that a petition to rename Hong Kong International Airport after the revolutionary leader.

With Sun Yat-sen’s experience in the aviation industry – he was credited as the first person to build an aeroplane in China in 1923 – he deserved to have an airport named after him more than many others. Hong Kong is an appropriate location, advocates say, noting that his mother was buried in the city and in 1923 he credits the University of Hong Kong as his intellectual birthplace.

But this airport name change request could face a number of obstacles. For one, it’s notable in mainland China that no big airports are named after famous people in history. Thus, Beijing, which has sovereignty over Hong Kong, might object to the name-change plan.

If an airport has a pretty good record in service or facilities, then it brings even more honor to the figure it’s named after. But what about Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino airport, named after the father of the current Philippine president, get bad reputation as among the worst airports in the world? For Hong Kong, it’s on the other side of the yardstick, receiving awards and recognitions for years. The risk of potential PR nightmare is not that high.

But for Airport Authority, which says it has no plan to change Chek Lap Kok name at the moment, even the centenary of a historical event may not be enough to persuade it to rename the airport.


Personally, I'm behind this 100%. Unfortunately, I doubt it'll ever happen. Sun Yat Sen connected to an era of freedom and revolution with which the Communist Government retains a strange relationship. In this 100th anniversary year of the Republic of China, one can hope.

First Chinese Pilot to Join the Aero Club of Hong Kong

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Posted by Casey DuBose

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