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A single-engine airplane flies above the New Territories. Recreational pilots are required to remain within the airspace of the Hong Kong SAR.
Up in the air
By Doug Meigs
Published: Jul 13 2010 10:51
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Helicopters soar high above the fringe of the otherwise defunct Kai Tak International Airport. They leave daily from a tiny patch of grass and asphalt behind the clubhouse in Kowloon.

During weekends, when the People's Liberation Army's Hong Kong Garrison isn't using the runway at Shek Kong Airfield, club members zoom over New Territories in single-engine airplanes.

The Hong Kong Aviation Club (HKAC) enjoys a monopoly on recreational flying in Hong Kong. However, members may be soon limited to Shek Kong as redevelopment increases at Kai Tak.

The HKAC is an amalgamation of two former clubs. The Hong Kong Flying Club (started in 1929) and Aero Club of Hong Kong (started in 1933) merged in 1982 to form the current organization.

It has more than 300 full-member pilots, who fly the club's four helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft. Some members also own private planes or helicopters, which they store at Kai Tak or Shek Kong.

Local instructor Francis Chin Yiu Cheong is among the club's most senior pilots. He was a 16-year-old in 1966, when he joined the club and earned his pilot's license.

Chin recalls being the only Chinese member of the club, aside from a mixed Portuguese-Chinese member, until he convinced his five brothers to learn how to fly.

He and his brother Dominic completed the first single-engine aircraft flight from London to Hong Kong in 1972. More recently, last November, he flew from Hong Kong to Xi'an to promote aviation on the mainland.

After retiring from a career in audiology, Chin became a vocal advocate for preserving Kai Tak Airport. He formed a "Save Kai Tak" campaign in 2003 and petitioned the government to preserve 799 meters of runway for educational aviation use. The request was dismissed in the final Kai Tak Planning Review in 2007.

President of the HKAC, John Li, said the club's main goal is to provide a forum for aviation enthusiasts, and to help them go airborne.

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