Singapore, July 2007. (Report by Ian Old)
to relive childhood memories, and to see some of the places I lived in and
remembered before they are flattened. However I went prepared to see some
airframes if the chance arose during my two nights there! I flew out on a
British Airways flight, BA0011 from Heathrow on Friday 6th July.
The aircraft was a B.747-436, G-BNLY. Whilst killing time in the Departures lounge in Terminal 4, amongst the many airframes of no interest, I spotted B.747-422 A6-HRM, of the Dubai Air Wing! Nice start!
I arrived in Singapore some 13 hours later at 1715 local Saturday 7th at Changi International (or RAF Changi as I used to know it). This is also home to the Singaporean KC-135s, Fokker 50s and one squadron of F-16s but I was not able to do any spotting here. Unfortunately my main item of luggage didn't show up for 27 hours but my spotting kit was in my hand luggage! That proved to be very lucky!
SUNDAY 8TH JULY
The first aeronautical visit was to Seletar Airport (I used
to live here, when it was RAF Seletar.)
No (former) military aircraft were seen, although more interesting machines amongst a lot of purely civilian airframes were an L.100 and An-2 both unidentified due to buildings/other aircraft. Much of the former RAF buildings still exist although many of the domestic properties at least, are likely to be flattened in the next 2 years, as the site becomes a major aerospace park.
Next was the Singapore Air Force Museum at Paya Lebar. It's free but not open every day (Mondays it's shut).
The adjacent airfield is now solely used by the Singapore Air Force (F-5s and C-130s). It had been the international airport when I lived in Singapore.
The aircraft exhibits were (in order from left to right):
SF.260MS 123 'D'
TA-4SU 900 (ex. 147742)
TA-4S (6)51 - forward half/majority of fuselage
A-4S 607 (ex.145013) grey scheme
Strikemaster Mk.84 301 'B'
Hunter F.74B 527
T-33A 364, also marked as 16956
Alouette III "200". Not the original that I saw in 1969! Thought to be c/n 1271, ex. ALAT.
Also a BT-106 target drone, no obvious serial.
Suspended from the ceiling were:
C.172K 110 - I did see this in 1969!!
UAVs Mastiff (?)65
I was given an extremely useful tip-off as a result of asking on MSF for help and information. The tip suggested that I check a hangar (used by the Air Force Academy) that is behind the T-33 and not too far distant. From the small viewing platform on the first floor that gives a nice vantage point to view the exhibits on the ground floor, on this Sunday, I found the hangar to be open. I could make out (from back to front) at least 2 A-4s and a Hunter (possibly 501 which used to be on the gate on the Museum) on the left-hand side, all pointing to the right. On the right hand side, there were, again from back to front, an F-5 (this is the first time that I've known one to be in this hangar), a helicopter in light grey overall (presumably AS.350 279) and two more A-4s, all pointing to the left.
The only serial data I managed to read off was on one of the Skyhawks on the left hand side. The first of the two digits on the nose was 7 and the second looked like a 5 or 6 - 976 possibly?? 975 is at Temasek Polytechnic. I've found several references from various sources to the following A-4 serials known/believed to be in use with the Air Force Academy - 683, 684 (not confirmed as an A-4), 919 and 958. I may have been able to do better with a pole but I'm not certain. The hangar doors were open but I could only the top of the fuselages, canopies etceteras as there are steel barriers and barbed wire obstructing the view. I was only able to identify the Hunter firmly because I could see the large white blade aerial behind the cockpit, and compare this to Hunter 527 a few yards away from me.
MONDAY 9TH JULY
My second and last day. I travelled by MRT train (very cheap, frequent and air-conditioned) (under and over ground) from my hotel to Boon Lay MRT station, on the East-West line. Between Dover and Clementi stations, under its own sun canopy at Singapore Polytechnic, stood A-4S (982), easily visible whilst looking south from the train. This is clearly shown on the Polytechnic's website.
There are 3 other A-4s with colleges on the island and at least two have been seen by spotters at their respective locations.
The former RAF Tengah, this was the only airfield I visited this time that I had not been to when I lived in Singapore. The majority of the F-16 fleet is here as well as the Hawkeyes. I travelled here by bus (again very cheap, very frequent and most are air-conditioned) (service 172) from Boon Lay MRT station.
There are three stops close to the base, just before, at and just after the main gate. There is a distinctive F-16-like tail made from concrete close to the road, whilst set maybe 100 yards into the base is an A-4, clearly visible from the road. This is thought to be A-4S 628 (Bu Aer ??????), although the guys from Scramble are not sure of its true identity. Another website states the gate guard as being the former 144956, but I cannot confirm this one way or another.
I did not see the flight line nor even hear any of the based aircraft let alone see any during the ninety minutes I was here, although I had no difficulty reading off Fokker 50s doing approaches. I identified 713 and 714. All aircraft on approach should be very easy to identify/photograph. I did not see any other spotters during my time and I don't know how easy going the police are. I made sure I was behind a large tree, shielding me from both the main gate and the road whilst actively spotting. Approach
lights were seen to the City side of the gate and on the opposite side of the road to the main gate.
Next I travelled to the Singapore Discovery Centre (closed on Mondays but my source told me this did not matter) and the adjacent SAF Technical Institute, both in the west of the City, hoping to see another 2 A-4s and a UH-1, but saw none. There was some building work at the SDC that may explain my lack of success.
Whilst walking around the City, I managed to read off F.50MPA 716 and C-130Hs 730 and 733, doing approaches at Tengah. I returned to the UK that night, on board BA0016, landing at Heathrow at 0515 GMT, this time the machine being a B.777-236ER, G-YMMI. One of my brothers was one of the 4 pilots manning the flight deck. I was tired but I had a really great time, probably never to be repeated. I did research the island a lot in terms of potential spotting and it certainly paid off.
I've told it's possible to spot at all of the bases on the island but I didn't have time to do any more than I did.