Monday, March 28, 2011

100 Years of Aviation in Singapore

It's been a 100 years of aviation in many Countries around the World this year. For us in tiny Singapore, the 16th of March marked the 100th year of aviation here. On 16th March, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore organized a gala dinner program for aviators and Airlines based/operating into Singapore. The event was at the huge banquet hall of the new "Resorts World" at Sentosa. This blog is more like a news report, mentioning the event and the celebrations.

(Bristol Boxkite that flew from Belmont Race Course in Australia, also in 1911)

The evening began with audio visual presentation of what people thought about aviation in Singapore titled "People, Passions, Opportunities". It was on the evening of 16th March 1911 that a French pilot Joseph Christiaens piloted a Bristol Boxkite Biplane. He took off from the Old Racecourse at Farrer Park from an unprepared airstrip, offering rides to many people for $50 a head! Pricey it may have been, apparently it had many takers. Farrer Park is now just grassy area near the Farrer Park MRT station on Race Course Road. There is no Race Course here but the name remains. Race Course Road is now famous for many Indian restaurants and Singaporean Indian restaurants that are famous for signature dishes such as the "Fish Head Curry".

The Bristol Boxkite was first built in 1910 by the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later known as the Bristol Aeroplane Company). The Boxkite was powered by a 70 horsepower "Le Rhone" rotary engine. First flight of this model was on 29th July 1910 and later on became a highly successful model selling units around the World.

(Bristol Boxkite)

The program was well conducted, as expected, everything works with clockwork precision in Singapore. There was an aerial symphony with dancers climbing on long curtains and conducting graceful movements set to music. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is also a former PM spoke on aviation and Singapore, keeping the speech brief and relevant. Then they collectively pushed a button to launch the start of year long celebrations called as the Singapore Aviation Centennial Celebrations which will end next year at the Singapore Air Show and that's going to be something special for sure. Watch this space for reports and pictures/videos that event.

Soon after the Minister's speech, another video presentation was shown on large screens set up throughout the vast hall, this one was titled "Our dreams, Our journey". This is particularly relevant to us here in Singapore, for growth of aviation here in future and for all the success of the past. Yes, its been a 100 years and tiny Singapore catapulted into the World stage far better than most other Countries with among the best Airports in the World in Changi and among the best Airlines in the World with Singapore Airlines.

The newly expanded Seletar Aerospace Park where yours truly has spent the last 4 years, is going to be the showpiece for General Aviation and Aviation technology leadership in the region. For Singapore to continue as a leader, it will have to innovate and come up with new concepts to forge a competitive aviation hub in this region. I suppose we all need to pull our socks up and get to work!

There was a musical finalé to the evening, songs were sung by locally famous artists Dick Lee and Ms Julia Abueva and she did sing very well indeed. All this while we ate a four course meal with free flowing drinks. As we left the hall, there were CAAS representatives who handed out large gift bag with a box in it, that turned out to be a scale model of the original Bristol Boxkite, made beautifully out of wood and thread. That's sitting on my desk right now as I write this piece. A fitting way to start off the Centennial year of Aviation. Cheers!