Ping Shan Airport – Statement of Air Officer Commanding Hong Kong, 1945

IDJ has sent the following newspaper article about the proposal to build a new airport for Hong Kong in Ping Shan which is just west of Yuen Long in the New Territories, as post World War Two Kai Tak was thought to be inadequate.

HF: I have retyped the original article to make it more legible and to aid searches.

The images included below have been taken from a selection of our other articles on the construction of Ping Shan airport which was to have replaced Kai Tak airport post World War Two. These are listed in Related indhhk articles below.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park accompanied by W.A.D Brooks, Air Commanding Hong Kong, experiencing a Caterpillar bulldozer demonstration at the Ping Shan site

CLEAR STATEMENT OF A.O.C. ON PINGSHAN

A comprehensive statement on the new Pingshan Airport, clearing up any misconceptions which may have existed, was issued yesterday by the Air Officer Commanding, Air Commodore W.A.D. Brooke.

The statement reads:-

1. There have been various articles in both the English and Chinese papers recently regarding a proposal to develop a new airport for Hong Kong. I think the time has come for me to make a more accurate statement than those that have already been written on this project. There are many citizens in Hong Kong today who have contributed over a number of years to the development of this great seaport, which has for many years been one of China’s main channels of import and export. It has also promoted the good relationship that has existed for so long between China, Great Britain and other countries who have traded through this port. In these days when the development of air transport plays so large a part in the facilities for trade there is a clear indication that no great port can retain its position as an entre port of trade unless it includes the combined port facilities for seaborne and airborne trade.

RAF Ping Shan circa 1954

2. The necessity for an airport at Hong Kong was apparent before the War when the airfield at Kai Tak fulfilled the somewhat limited requirements of those days, but with the development of the great trans continental air lines the dimensions and approaches of the Kai Tak airfield are no longer suitable or safe for the great air liners of the present day and of the future. It is essential therefore that if Hong Kong is still to fulfil its functions as a leading port a new and better airfield must be provided as soon as possible within convenient reach of Hong Kong itself. Such a site is not easy to find in the Hong Kong Colony and indeed the coast of China as a whole comprises a mountainous fringe which does lend itself to airfield development to suit the complicated requirements of the modern airport. Nevertheless a suitable site exists in the neighbourhood of Ping San which is now under survey.

FIRST REQUIREMENT

It should be realised that the primary requirement of a modern airfield is a flat strip of ground some 2,500 yards long with clear approaches at either end. Experience has shown throughout the world that requirements of this nature must, of necessity, clash with other interests and in almost every case the main interest has been agriculture. But seldom, if ever, has the latter suffered in the long run when compensation and rehabilitation of the local population has been properly studied and organised. And this will most assuredly be done when the time arrives for the actual development of the new airport for Hong Kong.

3. First of all, it should be realised that any airfield site to conform to airport requirements will include only the minimum of cultivable ground for a runway, taxy track and parking area which must, of necessity, be constructed in stone and concrete. At Ping Shan this area would amount to some 200 acres and not, as has been widely stated 3,000 acres. Ground for building purposes in connection with the airfield will, wherever possible be selected on suitable sites above the normal level of agricultural land and in most cases ground which has not been cultivated hitherto.

4. Secondly, as regards the inhabitants that might suffer directly from such development these occupy some five small villages and the number all told would not exceed 1500 people. When the time comes for these people to be moved elsewhere, they will be housed in newly constructed villages and on land which has been levelled to fulfil the dual requirements of housing and cultivation. Those inhabitants that are not directly affected by airfield construction but are dependent on agricultural production in that area would benefit on other ways as explained below.

FULL COMPENSATION

Caption :R.A.F. Hong Kong 1945 A.C.B. Wks Flts Ping Shan airfield”

5. Thirdly, it has been stated that the unfortunate evacuees, even if compensated for the loss of land, will be bereft of future occupation of land which their forefathers have tilled for centuries. This is incorrect because not only will those villagers be compensated by the provision of other land and houses but also their work in connection with the aerodrome construction and subsequent maintenance, for which a large amount of local labour will always be required will receive adequate remuneration irrespective of weather and harvest, which, in the past, has been the governing factor of both land owners and their employees.

6. It has been contended that this provision that the provision of skilled airfield engineers will debar the employment of local labour in adequate numbers in a project which is justly their heritage. This again is incorrect, because it should be borne in mind that those airfield engineers, who have already contributed so much to the rehabilitation of Hong Kong, are due for release and repatriation to their home country in the near future. In fact this has already begun. In consequence a steady dilution of labour in skilled trades is about to begin and will increase steadily.

This contingency has been foreseen and a scheme for training Chinese in the use of complicated modern machinery is already afoot. Within a very short time Chinese will be taking over the operation of this machinery and in due course Hong Kong Colony will be able boast that its own element of skilled labour is as well versed in the use of modern equipment as that in other countries which have had the advantage of inventing and manufacturing such equipment.

WORK FOR ALL

Lastly it must be realised that a project of this magnitude which involves levelling draining and canalisation, not only for airfield requirements but for agriculture as well, requires many more hands than few hundred R.A.F. skilled engineers who are initiating the task. Machinery can do much, but manual labour is always essential and so the local inhabitants will find themselves in honourable occupation under favourable conditions of housing and payment. When the work is finished many will return to the land and others will remain in permanent employment to maintain one of the leading airports of the world.

There is an old saying in English and in other languages too:- “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” The truth of this statement will apply also in full measure to this great airfield project for not only will it benefit the interests of China and the Hong Kong Colony but will bring prosperity to the inhabitants and the neighbourhood of Ping Shang.

Source: The China Mail, Hong Kong 17th November 1945

This article was first posted on 5th August 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Ping Shan – proposed airport for Hong Kong
  2. Replacing Kai Tak airport post WW2 – three articles about Ping Shan/Deep Bay
  3. Lam Tei Quarry – Ping Shan Airport , RAF Technical Magazine Report, May 1946
  4. Ping Shan airfield – further information
  5. Ping Shan airport – an extract from Paul Tsui’s unpublished memoir
  6. Ping Shan – proposed airport for Hong Kong – further images

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