John D. Wong

Dec 22, 2022

Hong Kong Takes Flight

Commercial Aviation and the Making of a Global Hub, 1930s-1998

Harvard University Press 2022

On July 6, 1998, the last flight took off from Kai Tak International Airport, marking the end of an era for Hong Kong aviation. For decades, international flights flew over the roofs of Kowloon apartments, before landing on Kai Tak’s runway, extending out into the harbor.

Kai Tak–frankly, a terrible place for one of the world’s busiest international airports–is a good symbol of the story of Hong Kong’s aviation, as told in Hong Kong Takes Flight: Commercial Aviation and the Making of a Global Hub, 1930s–1998 (Harvard University Press, 2022) by John D. Wong and published by Harvard University Press.

Hong Kong’s growth as a hub for commercial aviation was often unplanned, often the result of compromise–and yet wildly successful. The city was able to carve a niche for itself, in both the declining British empire and the wider world, while also having to deal with colonial bureaucracy, geopolitics, fierce competition and an entirely new Communist government across the border.

In this interview, John and I talk about Hong Kong’s history with aviation, from its very start with flying boats and puddlejumpers right through to the jumbo jet era.

John D. Wong is Associate Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, The University of Hong Kong. He is also the author of Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century: The House of Houqua and the Canton System (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Hong Kong Takes Flight. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.

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Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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