Sunday, June 18, 2006


This article is a continuation from the previous one on Seletar Airport. I have been reading Alexander Fraters book called ‘Beyond the Blue Horizon” as mentioned in my earlier blog on this book and he mentions a few things about Aviation history with respect to Singapore and Seletar. I have also added my research into this subject. For aviation history buffs, this is an interesting piece.

According to history, a French chap flew a biplane on a demonstration at Farrer Park Race Course. At the same venue, the first overseas Aircraft landed, flying in from the Britain after making numerous stops along the way, of course, in small biplanes. Later on, KLM and Imperial Airways (later became BOAC and later still British Airways) used to do the England to Australia flights with a stop over in Singapore.

The early records state that the first Imperial and KLM flights used to touch down in RAF Seletar after it was completed in 1929 and opened in 1930. RAF is for Royal Air Force and some old RAF buildings still stand and some are in use after passing down to the Singapore Air Force and subsequently in Civilian hands. In 1937, the operations moved to Singapore Marine and Land Airport at Kallang. This place was closed down in 1955 and the new Airport at Paya Lebar came into operation in that year. It seems that Singaporean Government decided that Paya Lebar would not suit the ultimate goal of a large Airport that would make Singapore a prime destination for World travelers and Changi then came into being and is what it is today.

Changi International Airport opened on 29th December 1981. Terminal 2 was added in 1990 and it has now been re-done, section by section, without anyone noticing the work and without any disruption to the flying public or Aircraft operations. Something worth emulating, in India, if ever this is possible. The Airport is equipped with Long Range radars and these are the things that show how that Government is serious on getting things done right, in advance, the first time around. Now, who can teach our politicians to the same? Are they educated enough, you think? Mrs. Vidya’s comment on my last blog prompts me to write more about development issues with respect to Singapore and I have managed to cover some of those things in a longish reply to her comment. Thank you Mrs. Vidya and I hope we can get some more anecdotes of your stay and life in Singapore.


Vidya said...

Thanks a lot :)

I enjoyed reading this bit, and having lived in Singapore for five years, it was a bit of nostalgia seeing familiar landmarks mentioned here. I can't believe that Farrer Park Race course area could ever have been an adequate landing site for any aircraft! It is in the Little India belt today and there's hardly space there to park a bicycle.

I wonder if you have ever seen a work crew on any development projects? Most of the labour force is from India. I am now convinced that it's the supervisory and administrative skills that we lack in India. Or just simply lack of initiative? There is certainly wrong with labour skills the way I see it.

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I was also surprised as you, when I found out about Farrer Park being an aerodrome but the first Aircraft that landed was a small biplane with just the pilot, those flimsy wood and cloth covered airframes could really take off and land from short distances. In 1927, the same Race Course carried the first paying passenger in a two seat Airplane that was making the England to Australia hop. This chap was a newspaper tycoon called W. van Lear Black and flew on the KLM airplane. In 1930, the Seletar Air base was completed and the first commercial flight with eight passengers landed there, coming in from Batavia.

I have done a lot of adventure flying, talking piston engine slow Aircraft over the North Atlantic polar ice cap without ferry tanks as late as the year 2000. some folks have called me crazy sometimes, but I pale in comparison to what the old timers did, to fly the type of Airplanes that they did, in an age when there was nothing to go by way of instrumentation and navigational aids except very rudimentary equipment.

These days, my wife and I have been getting off at Farrer Park MRT station, walking up Race Course Road, turning into Race Course Lane and eating South Indian Thali at Sakuntalas!

You are right about Indian labour force here in Singapore. They are even doing road works. It is common to see all of them congregate near Mustafa's on Saturday and Sunday where they all meet. You are right, the supervisory skills are lacking in India and we also lack initiative, both actually. I believe it is also a mind set that does not allow us to improve ourselves, in this, i mean Indian living in India. Indians living abroad have fared much better in all fields, as you know.

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Venkat Ramanan said...

Good to read about the history of Seletar airport!!!

At the same time, what we lack in our country is the collective will to execute projects and to top it, is the opposition we get from minions and red brigades, which end up shelving the projects on the whole!! Sometimes, I think we need an informed dictator to rule us who can take right decisions without consulting anyone!!

Cheers Captain!

Athul said...
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Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I agree Venkat. Our aviation history is also rich by the way but pioneers such as the great JRD Tata were sidelined and even sacked. If you remember, Air India in the 70's was among the best Airlines in the World. JRD was at the helm, after all, he started the original airline that was nationalized and taken over during Mrs. Gandhi's drive to nationalize everything. We had a dictator then, not an informed one, though! When Morarji Desai came to power, he sacked JRD Tata, one of the strange things he did in his Government's brief rule and Air India from then on nose dived to be among the top Airlines of the bottom pool of the worst Airlines in the World.

Venkat Ramanan said...

Hello Sir!
Me again with an Airlines related doubt! :-)

Some of the airlines have reported incomes from Sale and lease-back of Aircrafts. How do they generate income and show profits that too when there is depreciation on cost for sale or lease? Is the cost dependant on demand on supply also? Your response could throw some light on this doubt I have! Thanks in advance captain!

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks for the question Venkat. Sale and lease back of older Aircraft is additional and usually a one-time income. It does help profitability as non-operational revenue. Aircraft are depreciated on the "books" only, depending on how much each country allows. Book depreciation does not actually have anything to do with the market price. Demand and supply drives the prices. For example, you could have purchased a Bell407 Helicopter two or three years ago and want to sell it now. The demand is so great and waiting period for a new Bell 407 (other examples are also there but giving you this at the moment)is till end 2008, that a used two/three year old will get you the same price that you paid for it then!

There are cases where the value of an Aircraft actually appreciates, again this depends on the market. Vintage Aircraft such as the T-28 Trojan that I wrote about, in an earlier blog piece, used to be sold new (those days) at perhaps half of what price it commands now.
Hope this answers your question.