SINGAPORE - Ensuring that the aircraft involved in the National Day Parade (NDP) Red Lions military free fall, aerial display manoeuvres and state flag flypast can arrive precisely on time is the responsibility of the air force's engineers and air traffic controllers.
Other than making sure that aircraft take off and land safely, communications need to be set up between the control room near the Padang, the aircraft, and the three air bases in Paya Lebar, Changi East and Sembawang.
Ahead of a National Education show meant for schoolchildren on Saturday (July 13), the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) took reporters behind the scenes to find out how airmen from the 113 and 206 Squadrons ensure the planes arrive without a hitch.
In all, the aerial component for this year's parade, including Apache helicopters, F-15SG fighter jets, and the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft, will take about an hour.
The 113 Squadron is responsible for setting up the communications systems to coordinate aircraft movement at the Padang, such as landlines and radio systems, as well as a 3m by 6m control room on the roof of the National Gallery building.
Military Expert 2 (ME2) Pang Teck Lim, 39, who is in charge of communications for the Air Participation Committee this year, said coordination has to be done between various agencies, such as the National Gallery, the telecommunications company and contractors.
Preparation and planning started from March, with the laying of more than 150m of cables taking two days to complete.
His deputy, ME2 Tai Wei Jing, 34, added: "With many visitors daily, the laying of the cables all the way from the basement to level six requires a lot of coordination, because we do not want to cause any inconvenience to the museum or the restaurant here."
"We have to lay the cables at night, and the cables cannot be exposed, as this will affect the aesthetic (appearance) of the museum," he told reporters at the control room on Friday.
Over at Sembawang Air Base, the 206 Squadron is involved in coordinating the take-off and landing of helicopters, namely the Chinook and Apaches involved in the state flag fly-past, and the Super Puma for the Red Lions free fall.
A team of four at the air base's control tower checks for weather updates and makes sure flying activities are coordinated with those from the nearby Seletar Airport. An airfield inspector ensures that the airfield is clear of obstacles, such as birds.
As the tower executive officer in the control tower, Major Gurdeep Kaur, 38, oversees the tower crew.
"Timing is critical. That is similar to our daily operations, but for NDP, what's different is that there are spectators waiting and there's a show that must go on," she told reporters at the air base on Tuesday (July 9).
The squadron is tasked with providing air traffic control services to ensure safe and efficient launch and recovery of aircraft in its control zone.
It handles an average of more than 100 flying activities within Sembawang Air Base, which is the only helicopter base in Singapore, every day.
Depending on the weather conditions, the ground controller at the Padang - dubbed the "mother goose" - together with the organising committee makes the final call on whether certain segments will be called off.
This happened last Saturday when the Red Lions segment did not take place due to bad weather in Sembawang.
Air operations specialist, Third Sergeant Gordon Chay, 22, said when he watched aircraft taking part in NDPs with his family in the past, he did not know about the work involved in launching and recovering them.
The full-time national serviceman said: "I hope that now there is a stronger appreciation of not just the team here, but also of the people and effort that go into making sure the NDP runs very smoothly."