The Singapore Airshow (formerly the Changi International Airshow) is an event that I looked forward to with much anticipation, with its promise of getting up close to some of the latest aircraft – both civilian and military and the opportunity to watch some spectacular flying displays. This year’s edition of the biennial Airshow was held from 14 to 19 February at the Changi Exhibition Centre and saw the likes of the newest addition to the Boeing Civil Aircraft range – the state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner, as well as the latest addition to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) – the Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle gracing the event. The RSAF’s F-15SG features also in a duet with the RSAF’s Lockheed Martin F-16 in an aerial duet during the flying display programme which also sees the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s (RMAF) five MIG-29 RMAF Smokey Bandits aerobatic display team which includes the world’s only female MIG-29 pilot, Major Patricia Yapp Syau Yin.
The highlight as with every airshow must be the flying display and besides the duet of the RSAF’s F-16 and the F-15SG, and the RMAF’s Smokey Bandits, there were also displays by the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) team of six Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft, a solo acrobatic display by RAAF pilot Tony Blair piloting a Rebel 300 unlimited aerobatic aircraft and a fly past by a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III – a troop deployment and cargo craft used for tactical airlift and airdrop missions by the United States Air Force (USAF).
The airshow also saw the appearance for the first time in Singapore of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which with the extensive use of composites features an extremely lightweight structure which improves fuel efficiency. The appearance of the state-of-the-art in Boeing’s wide-body long-range fleet was also complemented by the appearance of one of Boeing’s success stories – the Boeing 747. A retiring 747-400 – one of the three that remain in Singapore Airlines’ fleet – the ‘9V-SPQ’ made an appearance over the weekend to commemorate the retirement of the airline’s B747 fleet after nearly 40 years of service. The aircraft was opened to some 1000 members of public during the public days for a guided tour and starts a series of events to commemorate the B747’s many years of service with the airline – during which it was the flagship aircraft. The B747-400 is scheduled to operate its last commercial flight to Melbourne on 24 March 2012. An additional commemorative flight is also being considered. Singapore Airlines took delivery of its first B747-200 in 1973, with the B747-300 BIGTOP joining the fleet some 10 years later which allowed the airline to fly non-stop from London to Singapore in 1984. The first 747-400 arrived in 1989 and with the delivery of the 23rd B747-400 in 1994, Singapore Airlines became the largest B747-400 operator in the world. By 2003, the airline operated a record 51 B747s.
The airshow’s static display also included a display of more than 50 aircraft that also included a display of the latest business jets which also featured Jackie Chan’s Embraer Legacy 650 executive jet which made its first public appearance and an Airbus ACJ318 corporate jet. Interesting highlights of the exhibition included the Changi Airport Group’s Butterfly Garden and walk through tropical garden which offered a break from the seriousness of the rest of the exhibition and a booth that celebrated 100 years of aviation in Singapore.