Glamour and scandal in the skies

16 05 2022

The 1920s in Singapore were exciting times for aviation. Late in 1919, Singapore witnessed its very first inbound flight, a Vickers Vimy which carried four men and which landed at the racecourse (now Farrer Park). In the excitement of seeing the Vimy land, many would have missed the sight of its mechanic, Jim Bennett, sliding along the fuselage toward the aircraft’s tail keep the nose up just before landing. The brave act — the equivalent of flaring on landing today, was quite necessary given the short landing distance required at the makeshift airfield. This would be a pattern for flights into Singapore that would follow, even after a dedicated but still makeshift landing ground had been prepared by filling Government sand pits at Balestier Plain in the early 1920s anticipation of an increase air traffic. 

The first ever flight into and out of Singapore was on a Vickers Vimy carrying four crew, which landed in Singapore in December 1919.

The lack of a proper airfield proved of little deterrence to the string of intrepid aviators that Singapore would see through the 1920s. Many, on their quests for fame, touched down here out of necessity more than anything else, as the technology of the day required multiple stopovers as flights could not take place in the dark and, due to the short range of aircraft then, required to be refuelled every few hundred miles.   

The location of Balestier Plain Aviation Ground

Among those who touched down at Balestier Plain was pioneering Australian aviator, Mrs Keith Miller (Jessie Maude “Chubby”) on 7 January 1928. The world had a fascination for the female aviator, who added a touch of femininity and glamour to the skies .She would be the first among several aviatrices to land in Singapore — although she did not actually pilot the Red Rose — a small Avro Avian that was owned and piloted by Captain Bill Lancaster. Capt Lancaster, an RAF pilot, described the aviation ground as a quagmire — something that could also describe the somewhat scandalous relationship that the pair, both of whom had spouses, would forge during the long and eventful journey from England to Australia. The pair, who took off from the racecourse (due to the unsuitability of the aviation ground) two days after landing on 9 January, survived a crash on the island of Muntok that resulted in them spending two months in Singapore having the Red Rose repaired. Repaired and tested, the Red Rose  took off once again on 14 March 1928 and arrived in Darwin on 19 March.

Bill Lancaster and Jessie Miller.

Some years later in August 1932, a murder trial involving the killing of a certain Haden Clarke, played out at the Miami Dade County Courthouse. Capt Lancaster had been charged with Clarke’s murder, which took place at a rented Miami home of Mrs Miller. During the trial, a sordid tale of love and betrayal emerged. Mrs Miller, who arrived in the United States with her lover Lancaster with the intent of having her autobiography written. She became romantically involved with Clarke, who she had employed to be a ghostwriter for the autobiography, and the allegation was that Lancaster had killed Clarke out of jealousy.  It also emerged during the trial that Clarke had deceived Mrs Miller and was a bigamist.  Lancaster was acquitted of the murder, and the pair, who were deemed to have overstayed in the US, were deported. 

The RAF aerodrome, and later the civil aerodrome at Kallang (terminal building pictured here) would be a big improvement on the “quagmire” that the Balestier Plain aviation ground was described as.

The development of RAF Seletar, and its opening to civil aviation, would write a new chapter for aviation here in Singapore. The military aerodrome, built to provide air cover for an intended naval base, would see the launch of the first regular air services to and from Singapore “Garbo of the skies”, Jean Batten  first between Singapore and the Dutch East Indies and eventually with Europe in 1933. The aerodrome would also serve as a staging ground for several other female aviators attempting to set records flying from England to Australia, who included the likes of Amy Johnson and the “Garbo of the skies”, Jean Batten. By the time of the arrival of Amelia Earhart in June 1937, who was perhaps the best known of teh aviatrices, RAF Seletar was forgotten as a dual-use airport and Singapore’s first civil aerodrome at Kallang, was in operation.


The first inbound flight
Piloted by brothers Ross and Keith Smith, a converted Vickers Vimy — a bomber built for use in the First World War but did not get to see action, touched down at the racecourse on 4 December 1919. Together with mechanics James (Jim) Bennett and Walter Shiers, the Smiths had their eye on a prize money of £10,000 — in excess of S$900,000 in today’s terms — being offered by the Commonwealth Government for being the first to fly from England to Australia. One condition was that the flight was to be done in less than 30 days and the four men were well on their way to achieving that, having arrived in Singapore some 22 days after taking off from Hounslow in London. The historic flight would land in Australian soil at Port Darwin on 10 December 1919, four days after taking off on 6 December from Singapore.


The contents of this post supplement that of my talk (cum virtual tour of old Kallang Airport), “An Aviation Journey“, for Singapore Heritage Festival held on 8 May 2022.

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Singapore Airshow 2022

15 02 2022

The Singapore Airshow, probably the last large-scale trade event that was held in Singapore before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, makes a return this year to position Singapore to tap on the anticipated strong recovery and growth in civil aviation especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ST Engineering stand

Held from 15 to 18 February 2022, the biennial event is being held in the midst of a still ongoing slowdown in civil aviation that even in its scaled-down eighth edition will see some 600 participating companies from more than 39 countries or regions. More than 70% of the top 20 global aerospace companies will be present and the show expects to see in excess of 13,000 trade attendees. This edition of the show will however not be open to the public and will be a trade visitor only event.

The Boeing 777-9 during the Flying Display

A key area of focus for the airshow will be sustainability. The inaugural “Sustainable Aviation Forum” is being held on 16 and 17 February to bring experts in to discuss challenges and opportunities within sustainable aviation and sustainability of future technology in areas of air mobility and aviation operations. The Singapore Airshow is also making its own efforts towards sustainability. Not only will it be largely paperless, the show is also being powered by solar energy. Some 15,000 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Changi Exhibition Centre!

Airbus 350-1000 during the Flying Display

A popular feature of the airshow is the flying displays. This edition will feature a total of eight such displays that will see the participation of four air forces, as well as Airbus and Boeing. Aircraft that will be seen for the first time at the airshow will be the highly manoeuvrable and rather impressive Indian Air Force’s single engine Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas. The Airbus’ A350-1000 and Boeing’s wide-bodied B777-9 will also be making its show debut.

The Tejas on the ground

Returning to the flying displays will be Indonesia’s Jupiter Aerobatic Team, which was last seen in 2018. Also coming back are a F16C fighter jet displaying solo aerobatics, and a pair of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Airforce and the United States Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II and a United States Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress in a fly-by.

The Tejas doing what it does best in the air.

The flying displays will be held once a day at 12:30pm on 15 February, and 11:30am on 16, 17 and 18 February and the public can catch these displays via livestream at go.gov.sg/sa22live or on the Singapore Airshow’s Official Facebook page.

The F35-B Lightning II with up to 40,000 of thrust directed downwards (in hover mode)

Other highlights of the airshow include the many innovative defence and security products on show at the Singapore Technologies Engineering stand. This includes the Terrex 8×8 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, configured as a “mothership” or a launch pad for unmanned aerial vehicles and robots. Equipped with vehicle mounted cameras that give its operators an all round view through a virtual “windscreen” and “rear-view mirror”. It is also able to see through other eyes such as drones and robots and unmanned weapon mounted vehicles it operates remotely.

The hybrid drive system of the Terrex.

Another feature of the Terrex is its hybrid Diesel-DC electric drive system that features an externally mounted system which maximises space within the vehicle. The Terrex can operate silently with its diesel driven generator turned off using battery power. It has a range of 20 to 100 kilometres in this mode, depending on its configuration.

The “windscreen” inside the Terrex





Aviation Milestones: first regular intercontinental flights out of Singapore

7 09 2020

The first regular flights from/to Singapore to/from Europe operated out of RAF Seletar. The RAF air station, which was completed in 1930, played host to the first regular air services connecting Singapore with the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) from 1930. Connections with Europe would take a few more years and in May 1933, the Royal Dutch airlines, KLM – the world’s oldest airline in May 1933 introduced regular services from Singapore to Europe. Using a Fokker F.XVIII, the outbound journey took seven days and inbound eight days – with multiple stops.

Flying then was not for everyone of course. It would have cost an arm and a leg and maybe a little more with a single ticket from Singapore to London priced in excess of £164. That would be the equivalent of £11,815 or more than SGD 21,000 in 2020!

Air Travel between Southeast Asia and Europe in the 1930s.





A floating city calls at Changi

21 10 2019

I had an opportunity to go onboard the Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. The huge flagship of the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 5 (CSG 5), with its array of aircraft, a flight deck of 1.82 hectares, a complement of some 5000 and a above water profile that rises some 20 storeys, is nothing short of impressive.

Displacing some 88,000 tonnes, the carrier has a length of 333 metres and a beam of 77 metres. With her huge complement and the various services required to meet the personnels’ needs – some 15,000 meals are served daily – the carrier  is sometimes thought of as a floating city.  More on the carrier can be found at: https://www.reagan.navy.mil/media.html.

 

On the flight deck.

The hangar bay of the carrier, in which aircraft are stowed.

The hangar bay decked out for the carrier’s visit to Singapore.

 

An elevator, seen from the hangar bay. It is capable of moving two aircraft to the flight deck in 6 seconds.

 

A view of the hangar bay.

Another view of the hangar bay.

 

A F/A-18 Hornet marked in memory of FDNY firefighters during 9/11.

Another view of the memorial marked Hornet.

 

An E-2 Hawkeye on the flight deck.

 

 


On the elevator


More views of the flight deck:



 





The show at the Airshow

17 02 2016

Photographs from yesterdays aerial display at the Singapore Airshow.

The aerial display, featuring both military and commercial jets, is undoubtedly the main draw for many during the biennial Singapore Airshow and its previous incarnations. This year’s show, disappointingly, features only one acrobatic team – that from the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles. The Black Eagles, who also performed during the last airshow, again wowed the crowd with their spectacular aerial stunts in a 23 minute display that included painting the sky with their trademark Taegeuk symbol. The airshow, runs until Friday for Trade Visitors and is opened to the public this weekend. More information is available at https://www.singaporeairshow.com/aerobatic-flying-display.html (trade days) and https://www.singaporeairshow.com/aerobatic-flying-display-public.html (public days).

ROK AF Black Eagles flying the domestically produced T-50 Golden Eagle.

ROK AF Black Eagles flying the domestically produced T-50 Golden Eagle.

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The Taegeuk.

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The USAF F-16C in a solo display.

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The super silent Airbus A350 XWB.

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Another of the Airbus A350 XWB.

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RMAF’s highly manoeuvrable SU-30MKM.

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RMAF’s highly manoeuvrable SU-30MKM in a vertical climb.

The RSAF AH-64D Apache and F-15SG Integrated Display.

The RSAF AH-64D Apache and F-15SG Integrated Display.





Behind that fast, furious, sky-high NDP salute

4 07 2014

It is in a very brief but spectacular moment that five of Singapore’s most advanced fighter jets the F-15SG, with their afterburners on, will, from some 300 to 400 metres above Marina Bay, will wow the crowds at this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) in their salute to the nation. The display, a regular feature of more recent NDPs, “A Salute to the Nation”, has to surely be a crowd favourite that involves only the best-of-the-best in air crew in a demonstration of extreme piloting skill that sees the jets separated, wing-tip to wing-tip, by a distance of just 3 feet (0.9 metres).

149 SQN's F-15SGs lining up for take-off at Paya Lebar Air Base for the NDP 2014 practice session (photo courtesy of  MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

149 SQN’s F-15SGs lining up for take-off at Paya Lebar Air Base for the NDP 2014 practice session (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

I was provided with the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes that allowed me to get a glimpse of what does go on in the lead up to that fleeting wow moment with a visit to the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) 149 SQN, at Paya Lebar Air Base on Saturday. The visit, arranged for a group of bloggers, provided the chance to understand some of the challenges that the execution of the salute presents to the air crew, get a first-hand view of some of the preparations, and get up close with the pilots and aircraft, along with the thrill of seeing the jets take-off for Saturday’s NDP practice session right by the runway (as we understand it – there are a total of seven practices that the team participates in – four of which are carried out during the NDP rehearsals).

On the runway before take-off (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

On the runway before take-off (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

In the informative briefing that was provided by Commanding Officer MAJ Nick Wong – who also leads the display team, we were introduced to the six pairs of air crew – each comprising a Pilot and a Weapons Systems Officer (Fighter) –  a sixth aircraft in the five aircraft display is always on standby and maintains a holding position as a replacement in event one of the five aircraft has for some reason to pull out.

The six pairs of men who will take the F-15SGs up into the air for the Salute to the Nation.

The six pairs of men who will take the F-15SGs up into the air for the Salute to the Nation.

The line-up.

The line-up.

Among the challenges that MAJ Wong spoke of was the importance of getting the timing right in the execution as well as in maintaining a correct line and formation, especially when the move involves the use of the afterburners. Rapid decision making is often required in response to always changing timings in order to ensure that the execution is perfect.

Shadow play - MAJ Nick Wong demonstrating how tight the aircraft are in maintaining formation.

Shadow play – MAJ Nick Wong demonstrating how tight the aircraft are in maintaining formation.

The group also got to see some of the preparations before each flight including the kitting up of the air crew and the pre-flight inspection and start-up routine for the aircraft. The kit that the crew puts on includes a anti-G suit to counter the effects of the G-Forces experienced by the crew (the crew can be subjected to acceleration forces that reach as much as 9G during flight manoeuvres). Interestingly, there is also a bag into which the crew, when needed, answer the call of nature into. The bag is filled with a powder substance that turns into a gel on contact with liquid waste.

Kitted out with the Anti-G suit.

Kitted out with the Anti-G suit.

The man they call "Shrek", CPT Chia, showing the bag the crew answer the call of nature into.

The man they call “Shrek”, CPT Chia, showing the bag the crew answer the call of nature into.

The flight helmet.

The flight helmet.

The entire flight kit weighs as much as 15 kg.

The entire flight kit weighs as much as 15 kg.

At the weather shed, we got up-close to one of the aircraft being prepared. The pre-flight checks and preparation involves both the Air Crew as well as the Flight Line Crew in ensuring the aircraft is prepared adequately and is safe to launch. The 149 SQN Flight Line Crew has both Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) as well as Regular Air Force Engineers who are also involved in both pre and post-flight inspections, as well as maintenance on the aircraft.

The F-15SG in the Weather Shed.

The F-15SG in the Weather Shed.

Pre-Flight Inspections being done by both the AIr Crew and Flight Line Crew.

Pre-Flight Inspections being done by both the Air Crew and Flight Line Crew.

Getting Ready to launch the F-15SG.

Getting Ready to launch the F-15SG.

More on the 149 SQN’s F-15SGs, which attained Full Operational Capability in September 2013, can be found at both the MINDEF website (see – Fact Sheet: The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)’s F-15SG Multi-role Aircraft) and the RSAF’s Facebook Page (see – F-15SG in action during the latest Exercise Forging Sabre. More on NDP 2014 can also be found at the NDP website.

Out the F-15SG goes.

Out the F-15SG goes.

Taxiing to the runway.

Taxiing to the runway.

A member of the Flight Line Crew.

A member of the Flight Line Crew.

A f-15SG commencing a take-off run (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

A F-15SG commencing a take-off run (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

Lining-up (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

Lining-up (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

 

 





Painting the sky

14 02 2014

One of the highlights of the acrobatic aerial displays at Singapore Airshow 2014 has to be that of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF)Black Eagles flying the Korean Aircraft Industries (KAI) T-50B Golden Eagle aircraft. Some photographs taken of the Black Eagles painting te sky with their smoke trails – including the Korean Taegeuk symbol, and also spectacularly performing a double helix with four aircraft. This year’s edition of the airshow (which takes place once every two years) will end this weekend when it opens its doors to the public and will see the Black Eagles up in the skies for the afternoon sessions of the aerial displays.

The ROK AF Black Eagles forming a 'Taegeuk' smoke trail in the skies.

The ROK AF Black Eagles forming a ‘Taegeuk’ smoke trail in the skies.

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A sneak peek at the Singapore Airshow 2014

9 02 2014

The much anticipated Singapore Airshow 2014 (SA14) opens this week at the Changi Exhibition Centre with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) celebrating a significant milestone, its 45th Anniversary. Marking this milestone, visitors to the airshow will be treated to an event, the RSAF45@SA, which will see an RSAF Pavilion in which the RSAF will showcase its transformation into the 3rd generation force it is today. Members of the public can also look forward not just to the ever popular aerial acrobatic displays from the RSAF Black Knights and aircraft from several other international air forces, but also to the chance to win rides during the public days on either a C-130 transport aircraft or a Chinook helicopter that offers passengers the treat of spectacular views over Singapore. A sneak peek at what’s in store at RSAF45@SA follows. More information and to sign up for the chance to win the rides on RSAF’s aircraft, do visit the RSAF’s Facebook Page (registration for the ballot should be submitted by today 9 Feb 2014).


A sneak peek at the Singapore Airshow 2014 and RSAF45@SA

Acrobatic Aerial Displays

RSAF Black Knights

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RAAF F-18 and ROKAF Black Eagles

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Rides on RSAF Aircraft

Ride with a view.

Ride with a view – a photo taken during a preview of the Chinook  ride.

Stand a chance to win a ride on a Chinook (seen here) or a C-130 Transport Aircraft.

Stand a chance to win a ride on a Chinook (seen here) or a C-130 Transport Aircraft.

An iPhone pano taken inside the Chinook during a preview.

An iPhone pano taken inside the Chinook during a preview.

Another view inside the Chinook during a preview of the ride.

Another view inside the Chinook during a preview of the ride.


RSAF Pavilion

The Air Force Recruitment Centre at RSAF45@SA will showcase the various career schemes and vocations through its “One Force” campaign which includes the interactive “One Force” smartphone application. Visitors can download the One Force app (Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.swagsoft.rsaf&hl=en / iTunes* – https://itunes.apple.com/sg/app/one-force/id798763850?mt=8) which provides an interactive experience by scanning through placement of  your phone in front of a commercial being screened. Instructions on how to use the One Force app can be found at http://goo.gl/ztmrlh.

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Static Display

Key highlights of the static display include the F-15SG, G550-AEW, SPYDER Air Defence System as well as the Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Hermes 450 UAV. Other aircraft types on display include the F-16D+ and the F-5S/T fighter aircraft, C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, AH-64D Apache attack helicopter; CH-47D Chinook and Super Puma helicopters. Other ground-based air defence systems on display include the Mechanised IGLA, I-Hawk, RBS-70 and Mistral.

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Even ships seemed to take-off at a wet Singapore Airshow 2012

19 02 2012

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.

A RMAF MIG-29 - one of the five MIG-29 RMAF Smokey Bandits aerobatic display team.

The Smokey Bandits are so named due to the trail of black smoke the MIG-29s leave. One of the solo pilots of the RMAF's Smokey Bandits is Major Patricia Yapp Syau Yin - the world's only female MIG-29 pilot.

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 RSAF's latest acquisition - the Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle debuts in a aerial dance with the RSAF's Lockheed Martin F-16 during the flying display.

The RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagle.

The RMAF Smokey Bandits performed some eye-catching aerial stunts ....

Another spectacular display was by the RAAF Roulettes team of six Pilatus PC-9/A. The flying display segments also included a fly past by a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and a solo acrobatic display by RAAF pilot Tony Blair piloting a Rebel 300 unlimited aerobatic aircraft.

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 Boeing 787 Dreamliner made an appearance in Singapore for the first time.

The raked wingtip of the 787 Dreamliner.

The retiring Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 '9V-SPQ' made an appearance over the weekend. The plane is one of three 747-400s left in the airlines' fleet and its appearance at the airshow commemorates the retirement of the B747 fleet after nearly 40 years of service.

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.

The nose of RSAF G550 AEW airborne early warning platform.

The RSAF's F-15SG.

The frontal view of the F-15SG.

Rain falling on the tarmac.

A reflection of the tail of an aircraft on static display with a visitor under the shelter of an umbrella in the rain.

Another relfection in the rain.

Students taking shelther under the wing of an aircraft - the wet weather did not dampen enthusiasm for the airshow.

A model of a ship flying at the airshow?

There were several distractions at the airshow as well ...





Taking off with the Legends of Flight

4 11 2010

Anyone with an interest in aircraft may appreciate the iMax 3D movie currently being screened at the Omnitheatre. The movie which produced by Canada based Stephen Low, and executive produced by K2 Communications Inc, traces the evolution of flying machines, pausing at some of the more revolutionary moments in the century and a little more of powered human flight, from powered bi-planes to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

While we may be led to imagine that the movie takes a neutral look at the so called legends that have transformed flying machines, the fact that the audience is in fact navigated through the movie by what many would consider a living legend of flight himself, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot, Mike Carriker, the movie is in effect a promotional video for the Dreamliner. Carriker takes us through many of the considerations taken in the development of the Dreamliner, manoeuvring through conceptual thoughts, mock-ups of Board Room meetings in which Carriker is seen as a key driver of many of the decisions that were taken, to the production shop and test rigs, glossing over many of the problems that were responsible for a two and a half year delay in the programme which took six years from conception to the first test flight. In all this, the legendary aircraft that are featured have minimum screen time, with much of the attention given to the development of what Boeing and Carriker describes as an aircraft so revolutionary that future generations of it would flying some 100 years from now.

The aircraft featured in the movie as seen on the movie poster.

That the Dreamline is a revolution, there is no doubt. Much of the motivation for developing the aircraft was to regain Boeing’s market leadership which was threatened by Airbus’ launch of the Airbus 380 which in exploiting the economy that is associated with scale in arriving a what was, from a fuel economy viewpoint, the most efficient commercial jetliner ever developed. In doing so, as we are shown in the movie, Boeing was determined not just to match the fuel economy of the Airbus 380 with a smaller aircraft for which they felt there would be a greater demand for, but one that will be the benchmark of the future of aircraft. To achieve that vision, many of the legends of flight were looked at from a perspective of what had made them the revolutions of their time. The lessons we have from Nature were also taken on board the many considerations made (Carriker admits that much is still a mystery – and that is what makes it beautiful), with the Albatross which is described as the most perfect flying machine, one that is able to sustain flight for a great length of time with its highly efficient long thin wings, being the inspiration for the wing design. The legends that are featured also include the first powered flight in the form of a piston engine driven bi-plane, the piston engine powered Lockheed Constellation, the Schleicher Glider, the Harrier VSTOL Jet, and the Airbus 380.

The Harrier is cited as one of the legends - its VSTOL capability showing that sheer power and not just aerodynamics alone can be relied on put an object in the air.

In the design of the wings of the Dreamliner, the thin long wings could only be achieved by the extensive use of some of the advanced materials available to us today, primarily carbon-fibre composites, which allows lightweight high modulus fibrous material to be aligned in directions where strength is needed, much like the lightweight materials which were used in the very first sail planes where extensive use was made of lightweight wood and sail material. While carbon-fibre composites is used extensively in military jets to optimise their weight, the extensive use of the new age material in the Dreamliner is in fact a revolution in itself, with the aircraft being the first commercial jetliner to exploit the material fully – aided in part by the leaps and bounds in computing power that now allows extensive and exhaustive analysis to be carried out on a composite structure. The introduction of carbon-fibre composites, we were to find out later, was not without its problems – an unpredicted weakness at the joint of the wing root to the fuselage that only came to light during static tests resulted in a long delay in which titanium brackets had to be retrofitted to the first six units on the shop floor.

The movie does come with stunning 3D effects – one particular scene that is animated takes you on a ride over the rockies with a Schleicher Glider is especially spectacular, and all in all the flow of the movie makes it not just educational, but also quite entertaining with its thrilling virtual flight sequences, something that is well worth making a trip down to the Omnitheatre for. The movie made its debut at the Omnitheatre on 2 November 2010 in a grand premier that was graced by Mrs Lim Hwee Hwa, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Transport.


About the Legends of Flight:

Directed by Stephen Low, produced by Pietro L. Serapiglia, and executive produced by K2Communications, Inc. in association with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Legends of Flight brings the excitement of air travel to the giant screen through the eyes and experience of The Boeing Company’s Chief Test Pilot Mike Carriker.

Flight-rated in more than 100 aircraft types, Carriker, one of the world’s top test pilots, is the audience guide, interpreter, flight instructor and amiable companion. With him, viewers will enjoy the serenity of soaring through majestic mountain peaks and then feel the sheer exhilaration of a Harrier Jump Jet as it leaps into the sky and rockets to tactical speed. Virtual flights in classic airplanes of the past give way to the film’s highpoint; the drama of being aboard for the world’s most anticipated commercial aircraft’s maiden flight, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Beyond the technical marvel that is IMAX photography – where advanced cameras and technologies add to the superb storytelling abilities of large format cinema – is the film’s innovative use of SANDDE animation. Developed by IMAX co-founder Roman Kroitor, the Stereoscopic Animation Drawing Device (SANDDE) enables Carriker to literally draw in space, allowing the audience to see technical explanations as they appear on the screen and move as an overlay in real time.

In production for more than three years, Legends of Flight will premiere in late spring 2010 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC., followed
by premiere showings in Seattle and Chicago. The film will then begin an international exhibition schedule.

The Stephen Low Company, based in Quebec, Canada specializes in films for the Giant Screen cinema. K2Communications, Inc. serves as Executive Producer and is a leader in
the Giant Screen industry. K2’s extensive IMAX format film library is available internationally. Legends of Flight is the third film collaboration between acclaimed IMAX director Stephen Low and K2. Prior work includes Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag and The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, set to premiere globally in February 2010. A fourth film collaboration – Rescue – is under way.