I was just putzing around with some leisurely things (web surfing, writing a letter, organizing travel photos), when I heard a somewhat loud rumbling from outside. I looked outside wondering what on Earth it was, and then thought — is that an airplane? And that’s when it dawned on me that I have no idea when was the last time I’d heard an airplane flying overhead while in Hong Kong. Isn’t that mad?
For the most part, I’ve lived on Hong Kong Island – from Wan Chai to Sheung Wan, and I am occasionally in Kowloon, and used to commute daily to the New Territories. And I never heard an airplane overhead one time, it seems!
In New York, my ears were constantly assaulted with the sound or sight of an airplane overhead, especially in the Eastern part of Queens, between both major NYC airports, where we grew up. So it was not until I heard what had now become a foreign sound that led me to take a strange pause.
Hong Kong International Airport is definitely a busy one, especially with Hong Kong being a major hub of transport for many Asian cities and being the hub for Cathay Pacific. And let’s not forget the old and tremendously dangerous Kai Tak Airport (just do a quick image search and you will find plenty of insane photos of planes flying dangerously close to apartment buildings!). So how can I have not heard an airplane in so long that I didn’t immediately recognize the sound tonight??
I tried to do some research online to see if I was the only one to have ever noticed this, and it seems there are no other shocking realizations as to “airplane noise Hong Kong.”
What my brief research did reveal, however, is that Hong Kong is trying to do what it can to deal with noise pollution (which is still a relatively large problem overall; my biggest pet peeve being these giant air conditioners that buzz or hum loudly into alleyways or other nooks and crannies, especially where a lovely bar or restaurant might be tucked away!).
If you want even more specific data, well the Civil Aviation Department will proudly tell you what’s been done. Looking at data listed for Mid-Levels, which is about as close to where I’ve been living all this time in HK, aircraft noise exceeding 75 dB only makes up for 0.10% of all detectable aircraft noise, with the huge majority being under 65 dB.
To give you some concept of how loud that is, check out this page on decibels (and hearing loss). 60-65 dB is the sound of laughter, and 75 dB is the sound of a dishwasher. Incredible!