'Ballet in the sky' by 50 aircraft for NDP

Four Black Knights performing a “criss cross” as two others execute a near-vertical climb during a preview on Monday.
Four Black Knights performing a “criss cross” as two others execute a near-vertical climb during a preview on Monday. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Major Lee Mei Yi, one of a handful of female fighter pilots in the RSAF, will be the first among them to perform at the parade.
Major Lee Mei Yi, one of a handful of female fighter pilots in the RSAF, will be the first among them to perform at the parade. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Biggest fleet in almost 40 years to wow with various aerial displays

FIFTY aircraft will dazzle crowds at this year's National Day Parade (NDP) - the biggest fleet to appear at the Aug 9 show in almost 40 years.

More than 10 types of aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force will soar over Marina Bay and the Padang during the golden jubilee parade to perform a four-minute aerial ballet. They will include F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, a C-130 transport plane, Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and S-70B naval helicopters.

The only time there were more than 50 aircraft staging an aerial display was at the 1976 parade.

Also aiming to wow spectators will be ace pilots from the RSAF's aerobatics team, the Black Knights.

Five Black Knights will kick off the NDP show and fly in a "five stars" formation in an aerial salute to Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died aged 91 on March 23.

The formation represents the national ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

The heart-stopping aerobatics will include precision manoeuvres such as 20 F-16 jets forming the number 50 and vertical climbs.

With planes flying over the Padang - the NDP's main venue - in 20- to 30-second intervals, orchestrating the fleet will be made more challenging by the congested airspace over the Central Business District and its skyscrapers.

The parade's air participation chairman Francis Ngooi has been planning the aerial display since April last year.

"What we have come up with is the most impactful and optimal composition (of aircraft) for the crowd to enjoy," he said.

Before their performance, all the planes will hover over the South China Sea or the Southern Islands, stacked up in six layers, reaching a height of up to 14,000 feet above sea level.

"For some planes performing more than two manoeuvres, they will have to circle back and join the queue," Colonel Ngooi said.

Among the pilots who have been perfecting their routines since last month is Major Lee Mei Yi, 30, who will be the first female fighter pilot to perform at the parade.

One of a handful of female fighter pilots in the air force, she said: "It's added significance for myself... There's a growing community of female pilots and female fighter pilots, so I'm not the only one. Hopefully, in the future, we might be able to see more."

Spectators can also catch two fireworks shows at the Padang and Marina Barrage and a convoy of more than 160 war machines.

Col Ngooi said he had been hoping to land this year's organising job before he retires from the air force later this year.

The 49-year-old, who has flown in and coordinated NDP aerial displays in 2005, 2010 and 2012, said: "I'm glad to be selected again... It's momentous and I hope to make it the best."

jermync@sph.com.sg

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LINETTE LAI

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline ''Ballet in the sky' by 50 aircraft for NDP'. Print Edition | Subscribe