Timing is everything to team coordinating aircraft for NDP

Military Expert 2 Tai Wei Jing (standing) and ME2 Pang Teck Lim (beside him), who are responsible for communications for the Air Participation Committee, at the control room at the National Gallery Singapore yesterday.
Military Expert 2 Tai Wei Jing (standing) and ME2 Pang Teck Lim (beside him), who are responsible for communications for the Air Participation Committee, at the control room at the National Gallery Singapore yesterday.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

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 airbases in Paya Lebar, Changi East and Sembawang.

Ahead of a National Education show meant for schoolchildren today, the Republic of Singapore Air Force 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, and a 3m-by-6m control room on the roof of the National Gallery Singapore 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 at the National Gallery yesterday.

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 flypast, and the Super Puma for the Red Lions free fall.

A team of four at the airbase'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 there are no 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 the NDP, what's different is that there are spectators waiting and there's a show that must go on," she said.

Air operations specialist Gordon Chay, 22, said that when he watched previous NDPs, he did not know about the work involved in launching and recovering the aircraft.

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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2019, with the headline 'Timing is everything to team coordinating aircraft for NDP'. Print Edition | Subscribe