Grounded flights of fancy

Take an exclusive peek into a hangar linked to the runway of Seletar International Airport

Participants of the Fascinating World Of Aviation getting a tour of a hangar (above) that is usually open only to the plane owners, aviation workers and Wings Over Asia members. ST FILE PHOTO
Participants of the Fascinating World Of Aviation getting a tour of a hangar (above) that is usually open only to the plane owners, aviation workers and Wings Over Asia members. One of the three planes (left) visitors can get up close to and take pho
One of the three planes visitors can get up close to and take photos. ST PHOTO: EDDINO ABDUL HADI

For many who neither own planes nor work in the aviation industry, private hangars can hold a mysterious allure.

So, I was more than a little excited to join the Fascinating World Of Aviation, a family-friendly tour that promised to explore how Seletar - once filled with swamps and plantations - was transformed into an aerospace hub.

We did not get to fly in an aeroplane, but we did get an insider's look into a hangar operated by Wings Over Asia (WOA), a company that provides services for private-jet owners.

The hangar, which is linked to the runway of Seletar International Airport, is usually accessible only to plane owners, aviation workers and WOA members.

But with air travel curtailed by the pandemic, WOA has opened it to members of the public on this tour operated by travel company Xperience Singapore.

My family and I got to see up close planes of different sizes and makes, from seaplanes that can land on water to those that serve as flying hospitals.

Our guided 31/2-hour tour on a recent Sunday included other stops in Seletar that are significant to the local aviation industry.

Andrew, who has 15 years of experience as a tour guide, gave us history lessons at spots that mark Seletar's past - it once housed the British Royal Air Force (RAF) military airbase. He also offered insights into the modern buildings occupied by multinational aerospace companies such as Airbus.

In line with the tour's flight theme, we did a spot of bird-watching at Hampstead Wetlands Park, much to the delight of my two young daughters.

We had started the day by meeting at 9.45am at Khatib MRT station. Our first stop was the site that served as the RAF's Seletar Airfield from the 1920s to early 1970s.

We took photos of a cairn, made from materials from a building that once stood there. Andrew showed us a disused goose-neck-shaped steel lamp post, a relic from Singapore's colonial past.

SPH Brightcove Video

The Fascinating World of Aviation tour by local travel company Xperience Singapore features an exclusive visit to a hangar operated by aviation company Wings Over Asia which is usually not open to the public.

As the bus moved around Seletar, he pointed out the many charming black-and-white bungalows that used to house British military personnel, as well as art-deco buildings that served as station headquarters and military barracks.

While many are leased as residential properties, some now house food and beverage joints and businesses that are part of a lifestyle enclave.

While Seletar derived its name from the Malay sub-group who were indigenous to the area, many of the roads there, such as Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Gate, were named after famous places in Britain.

Our next stop was Seletar Aerospace Link, the road outside the Airbus Asia Training Centre, which was deserted on a Sunday.

We learnt from Andrew that the design of the bus stops and sheltered walkways there were inspired by the shape of planes such as the Spitfire, the iconic British fighter plane of World War II.

We then headed to Seletar Airport's old passenger terminals, which used to see VIPs such as American pop singer Bruno Mars passing through when he visited Singapore.

The entrances were barred, but we took photos of the facade of the single-storey buildings while the kids played on the abandoned runway carts that used to ferry luggage to and from the planes.

We joined a group of nature lovers, armed with their telescopic lenses, at Hampstead Wetlands Park, Singapore's first wetlands sanctuary in an industrial park.

Andrew reminded us to stay silent so the wildlife would not be ruffled and we were rewarded with the sight of an owl perched on a tree.

Finally, at WOA, where a pilot named Justin showed us around, we marvelled at the variety of planes parked in the hangars. We could get up close to and take photos and videos of only two planes owned by WOA.

The rest were either private or corporate planes, such as aircraft operated by a company providing air ambulances with doctors and nurses on board. One of the privately owned seaplanes parked there, we were told, made a cameo in the 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians.

We headed to the rooftop for a panoramic view of Seletar Airport's runway and its new passenger terminal, which opened in 2018.

Taking photos and videos of the runway was not allowed, but there was a disused aeroplane on the roof, where we took turns posing and playing pilot in the cockpit.

As we rounded off the tour with drinks at a private lounge, where some of the furniture was made from airplane parts, Justin, who trains other pilots, gave a pep talk to my elder daughter.

She told us later that she, too, wants to fly aeroplanes when she is older. The list of things that she wants to be when she grows up gets longer by the day, but this one is certainly a dream I hope will take flight.


  • WHAT An aviation-themed tour around the Seletar aerospace hub that includes a visit to a private hangar and bird-watching at a wetlands park

    WHERE Seletar, meet at Khatib MRT Exit A

    PRICE From $80, SingapoRediscover vouchers accepted

    DURATION 3 hour 30 min

    COMPANY Xperience Singapore


• Eating Air is an occasional series on local tours. For more stories on exploring Singapore, go to

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2021, with the headline Grounded flights of fancy. Subscribe