NDP 2020: State flag to be flown across Singapore via 2 routes in east and west

SPH Brightcove Video
The Republic of Singapore Air Force will bring National Day to Singaporeans with state flag fly-pasts over the heartland. Find out what it takes to bring the 30m by 20m flags from the ground to the skies.
A Chinook helicopter and its Apache escorts flying the state flag over Bedok North as part of a dry run before National Day. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - For the first time, Singaporeans will be able to see from their homes the state flag fly-past during this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

Two Chinook helicopters, each carrying the Singapore flag 1,000ft in the air, will fly across the country on two separate routes in the east and the west of the island.

Each helicopter will be accompanied by two Apache helicopters during this segment titled Fly Our Flag.

The east route will take the flag - measuring 30m by 20m - past housing estates such as Bedok, Pasir Ris and Punggol, while the helicopters on the west route will fly past residences in places such as Jurong East, Choa Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio.

Both routes will begin at the south of Singapore and end at Sembawang Air Base at the north. They are slated to start at 10.30am and will each take 55 minutes.

In previous years, the fly-past took place at a single location where the NDP was held, such as the floating platform at Marina Bay, and lasted only 10 minutes.

With the focus on celebrating the nation's 55th birthday at home, this year's NDP will be split into morning and evening portions.

The parade will also have many of its segments, including the Red Lions free-fall jump, take place in different locations across the island.

The morning portion of the Aug 9 celebrations will include a nationwide broadcast of the Prime Minister's National Day Message and a parade at the Padang reviewed by President Halimah Yacob.

The evening show will take place at The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista, featuring films and performances by Singaporeans and culminating in a coordinated fireworks display at more than 10 different sites across the country.

All the action will be shown live on TV and streamed on Internet platforms.

In between both portions, Singaporeans will be able to participate in various virtual and home activities, such as an NDP-themed workout.

Captain Eugene Chua, who is involved in the planning and coordination of the fly-past routes, said the routes and the flight height of the helicopters were designed for maximum exposure of the flag to residents in the heartland areas.

"Throughout the various rehearsals that we had, we have actually sent spotters out to different HDB blocks and open areas," added the 32-year-old Apache helicopter pilot.

Capt Chua, who is the Deputy Flying Display Marshal, also said the safety of the residents on the ground and the crew in the helicopters is a priority when planning the routes.

Military Expert 2 Sukhdesh Singh, who will be on the Chinook helicopter taking the east route, said he would be ensuring the three helicopters on his route remain in close formation but at a proper distance from one another.

"I will also be looking out for any unmanned flying aircraft such as drones, and birds that might come into the flight paths," said the 35-year-old flight engineer.

He will also be watching out for any flight obstacles such as construction cranes and high-rise buildings which the helicopters will have to avoid, he added.

There are also contingency plans in place in the event of any complications, such as unfavourable weather conditions or if the flags fail to unfurl fully.

These include 14 backup flags prepared at multiple air bases across Singapore such as Changi Air Base.

In the light of the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the team preparing and rigging the flags will be split into two sections, with each stationed at a different location.

First Sergeant Daniel Ho, 31, who is part of the team, said this would not affect the time taken for each flag to be prepared. It takes 45 minutes to two hours for 25 men to prepare a flag.

However, the reduced manpower from splitting the team would make carrying the flags out more taxing, said the operationally-ready national serviceman.

This year's NDP will also mark the first time a female pilot will be flying a Chinook helicopter in the state flag fly-past.

Captain Trixie Tang, 31, who is also the Republic of Singapore Air Force's first female Chinook helicopter pilot, will be flying on the east route.

"I feel very honoured and grateful to be given this opportunity," she said.

"It is a testament to our training and the constant rigour that we go through day-to-day to prepare for the NDP, as this is one of the highlights every year for the Chinook squadron."

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