Singapore

RSAF pilots wow crowds by pushing their flying skills to the limits

It may have been over in under 30 minutes, but the slick aerial manoeuvres by the F-15SG and F-16C fighter jets and the Apache attack helicopters over the National Day weekend took months of training and planning to execute.

The team consisted of six fighter pilots and two weapon system officers for the planes, six pilots for the Apaches, as well as more than 200 Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) personnel who ran ground operations, logistics support and managed traffic.

The team was supported by a ground maintenance crew of about 150 at the air bases, who, with the pilots, worked and trained every week from May this year to put up the aerial displays yesterday and on Saturday in celebration of RSAF's 50th birthday this year.

The pilots pushed their skills and their aircraft to the limit to dazzle the 44,000 spectators who attended the shows and to thank Singaporeans for their support of the air force over the years.

Major Chang Haw Ning, 38, team leader for the fighter aerial display segment for the Marina Barrage performance, told The Straits Times that the team starting planning the manoeuvres since November last year.

SWEAT

He said: "When the pilots first came in, they thought, 'how difficult could it be?' But after the first sortie, they came down covered in sweat, and said, 'how are we going to do this in a few (months' time)?'"

The senior instructor, who has been flying the F-16 for about 15 years, said flying close to the ground and to one another, are difficult manoeuvres because both are not part of operational flying.

Captain Ingkiriwang Reeve, 30, one of the AH-64D Apache pilots, said it was a humbling experience training for the show, even for a senior instructor like him.

The six helicopter pilots did close to two months in the simulators before the first flight. Even then, they started at a relatively high altitude of 1,000 feet, and with a single aircraft.

Capt Reeve said the display was "all about giving back to the people, inspire the young, strengthen their awareness and affinity for the air force".

"All the roaring engines and noise we create - for people to understand why and what we're doing, which is to train hard to continue protecting the country," he added.

Team Singapore