Paya Lebar Airbase best spot for Trump, Kim planes: Experts

File photo showing a hangar located at Paya Lebar Airbase. Security experts say the military base is the most optimal location to accommodate Air Force One.
File photo showing a hangar located at Paya Lebar Airbase. Security experts say the military base is the most optimal location to accommodate Air Force One.PHOTO: ST FILE
People waiting for the arrival of US President George Bush and Mrs Bush at Paya Lebar Air Base for a two-day official visit in Singapore in October 2003.
People waiting for the arrival of US President George Bush and Mrs Bush at Paya Lebar Air Base for a two-day official visit in Singapore in October 2003.PHOTO: ST FILE
The Air Force One at Paya Lebar Airbase when US President George Bush visited Singapore in October 2003.
The Air Force One at Paya Lebar Airbase when US President George Bush visited Singapore in October 2003. PHOTO: ST FILE

Air Force One, with US President Donald Trump on board, will likely land at Paya Lebar Airbase (PLAB) when he arrives in Singapore for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

It could also well be the most secure place for Mr Kim's Soviet-made Ilyushin-62 aircraft to land on his arrival.

 

Security experts point to PLAB's secure facility and the fact that it hosted past United States presidents and other VIPs who visited Singapore as the reason it will get the nod ahead of Changi or even Seletar airports.

They say that PLAB is the most optimal location to accommodate Air Force One, with it being a military airbase with a size of about 800ha.

PLAB welcomed former US presidents George W. Bush in October 2003 and November 2006 and Barack Obama in November 2009.

Dr Bilveer Singh, senior adjunct fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Mr Kim may also land at PLAB in his Ilyushin-62 long-range aircraft.

 
 
 
 

"It is also important to note that we are dealing with two leaders and states that are paranoid about security," he said.

"The reason the summit is being held here in the first place is partly because they are confident that Singapore can and will offer 101 per cent security. If this is the key consideration, landing at Paya Lebar is the best option."

Having both VIPs land at PLAB also means that flights at Changi Airport will not have to be disrupted if the air space needs to be closed temporarily to accommodate the high-level flights.

Said Mr Ong Kok Leong, chief operating officer of Secura Group, parent company of security and risk consultant company Soverus: "Trump would travel with his entourage, which comprises government officials, security personnel, and with them, their equipment. The choice of airbase would have to make practical sense."

Mr Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group, agreed that PLAB would be better than Changi Airport.

"It is safer and trouble-free as compared to Changi Airport, where many people will be within the restricted area. Risks would be lower at PLAB, as everyone can be screened and sanctioned."

Mr Ong said: "At Changi Airport, the presence of travellers and members of the public may pose security considerations, and the large entourage may also pose inconvenience to airport operations and airport users. A military airport will seemingly be the preferred choice."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2018, with the headline 'Paya Lebar Airbase best spot for Trump, Kim planes: Experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe