This is the continuation of a multi-part series covering my trip from Seattle to San Jose to Narita to Hong Kong and back as a ANA Ambassador. The helicopter flight was provided by the Peninsula Hong Kong although all views are my own. Part1: San Jose to Tokyo on the 787 Dreamliner – Part2: Connecting in Tokyo’s Narita Airport – Part3: Tokyo to Hong Kong & Back. Again
Hong Kong is made up of over 421 square miles of land & water and is home to almost 7 million people. The two main islands that make up this Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China are Hong Kong Island (where the city gets its name) and also Kowloon. With ground space being so sparce, the city has been built up into the sky and what better way to see this amazing city than from the air in a helicopter?
The Peninsula is the only hotel in Hong Kong with it’s own roof top helipad — actually it has two! Both rated to 3 tonnes, these twin roof top pads are the home base to Heliservices Hong Kong’s Aerospatiale AS355N Twin Squirrel. This small, versatile helicopter can speed you between Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and the hotel in just 10 minutes or taking you on a cruise over the city and surrounding islands.
After getting our safety briefing in the luxurious China Clipper lounge [a story on that soon], we ascended the stairs to the roof top pads where our ride for day was waiting. Our Pilot “Bob”, a Hong Kong Native, got us all settled after I took some additional photos (the views were amazing from even the pads). The engines started and we prepared to depart.
Though this was not my first helicopter ride, it was the first that I have taken off from the top of a building, so the sensation of takeoff was unique. Due to winds we actually had to gain height before being able to move forward. The takeoff felt as though we were moving backwards, but once at height we tipped forwards and started a nice gentle turn to the right towards Hong Kong Island.
I was sitting in the prime rear seat (left side) so that I could get plenty of photos. The views certainly were amazing as we skirted the Hong Kong Island coastline, taking in the views of “Central” with its high rise buildings and hotels.
We passed some of the ferries leaving Hong Kong towards Macau and even spotted a classic Boeing 929 JetFoil (powered by Rolls Royce 501K engines — the same ones that power C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orion aircraft).
We rounded Hong Kong Island passing Pok Fu Lam and saw the old cemetery that covers the hillside. It showed that even as time went by and the city grew, real estate was at a premium even after death.
After we passed over Repulse Bay & Stanley, we started to turn back towards Kowloon while skirting the Hong Kong Island coastline. Off in the distance was a sight that could make any AvGeek drool: The former site of the infamous Kai Tak Airport.
The former international airport for Hong Kong was notorious for it’s slightly scary (or exciting depending on your perspective) approaches over Kowloon. The airport closed back in 1998 and is now being turned into a cruise terminal. The pilot gave us a fun experience by doing a slow right turn over Kai Tak. Although my request to recreate one of the approaches had to be turned down.
After leaving Kai Tak it was time to head back towards the hotel, although not first before a second detour. We headed on over towards the Ocean Terminal in Kowloon to get some photos of the Kowloon area but also of the giant rubber duck.
This large inflatable piece of art is moored in Hong Kong Harbour as part of the Rubber Duck Project. It has a cult following and when it suddenly deflated at the start of May, many people were devastated. I learned that the pilots in the area refer to the approach into the hotel from the as “The Duck Approach.”
Before shooting the “Duck Approach” into the hotel’s rooftop helipads our pilot hovered over Hong Kong Harbour. Out of the numerous helicopter flights I have been on over places like Ayers Rock, Grand Canyon or the Whitsunday Islands, I have never had the chance to hover at height. At almost 1900 ft, not moving in any direction, made for a unique feeling, especially if you looked down!
As we touched back down on the Peninsula’s helipad and jumped out of the helicopter, I had taken around 700 photos in the short 20 minute flight. It took a solid hour or more for my head to join me back on the ground — but that is not a bad thing. I had the biggest smile on my face after that flight and it possibly was one of the best helicopter flights of my life!
Thanks to Jason Rabinowitz for sharing his helicopter video.
|This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos|