The Singapore Airshow is the world’s third largest trade show and the only regular airshow of any kind in Singapore. Since the event began in 2008, it’s fair to say that feedback has been mixed – especially regarding the flying display – but this year’s show was undoubtedly the best yet. Adam Landau guest reports for GAR. Additional imagery as credited.
The Singapore Airshow takes place near Changi International Airport and during the flying display the airspace around the airport is closed to regular airport traffic, meaning that the display is a short one, somewhere between just 30 and 95 minutes on each day. Despite this local limitation, the organisers confirmed no less than three display teams, including the Republic of Korea Air Force Black Eagles, the return of the Republic of Singapore Air Force Black Knights, flying six Lockheed Martin F-16Cs and the TNI-AU Jupiter Aerobatic Team from Indonesia with six KT-1B Wongbee aircraft.
Other highlights on the trade days included the likes of the Airbus A350 XWB, making its full international debut, MV-22 Osprey and Yak-130.
Opening the show though was the home team, the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Black Knights, who got proceedings underway with a spectacular break.
The Black Knights were performing their first display since ceasing operations in 2008. Now, the team has returned with eight new manoeuvers and six newly painted F-16s. Very smart they look, too.
All of the Black Knights’ pilots remain fully committed to their normal duties and have been training most days, since August 2013, to perfect their display. The team’s routine includes several manoeuvres completely new to the team, such as the Crisscross and Double Inverted Wrap. However, some manoeuvres have returned from previous sequences, such as Low and Slow and the Muscle Climb.
Black Knight 2, CPT Devdutt Sasihadran’s, favourite manoeuver is the Double Inverted Wrap. “I think it’s the most dynamic manoeuver. We have two aircraft flying upside-down and formatting on each other and another two aircraft performing opposite rolls behind them. There’s a lot of trust between each team member to maintain their position, and there’s a lot of trust from the guys who are upside-down to make sure that the guys behind them aren’t going to close up on them.”
Another new addition is Twist and Shout, which many readers would recognize as the Red Arrows’ Rollbacks. The team ends its display with a bang, with five aircraft performing a spectacular break and the solo jet spiralling vertically into the sky, firing a salvo of flares.
Political issues regarding a newly named Indonesian warship nearly prevented the Indonesian national display team, Jupiter Aerobatic Team, from flying at the show. Fortunately however, they did manage several performances with their six KT-1Bs.
Most of the display includes the six aircraft flying in formation, but in the middle of the display the two solo aircraft break off and perform an opposition pass, while the four ship continues in formation. Sadly on the Saturday of the Singapore Airshow the team performed with only four aircraft and then departed before Sunday’s show, meaning that the general public didn’t get to see the team’s full display.
The United States Air Force sent three solo performers for the Singapore Airshow, as well as providing aircraft for the static display. First up, on only two days of the show, was a Lockheed Martin F-16 solo display. Unfortunately, the display was far too distant to have much impact on the audience, with most of the routine lost in the Singapore haze.
However, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster caused a real stir with its surprisingly high speed passes and steep angles of bank, the latter carried out at very low speeds. However, the author felt that the display was quite a lengthy one for a large transport aircraft and could have been limited to fewer passes.
The final display from Stateside was that from the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey – the world’s first production tilt rotor – which began by running in at high speed, in conventional configuration, before coming to a stop as a helicopter! After a series of graceful rotations it transitioned back to its aircraft configuration before making a final pass and climbing away from the crowd.
Of great significance for the Singapore Airshow was a flying display debut for the Airbus A350 XWB. The trade day crowds surely couldn’t have helped but notice how quiet the aircraft was as a pair of Airbus test pilots threw her around the sky at very low speeds. Impressive stuff from the A350 which has already secured more than 800 orders and should enter service later this year.
Next up was the Yak-130 two-seat, advanced jet trainer – hardly an uncommon sight at trade shows nowadays, despite the commentator enthusiastically telling the crowd that it was a very rare appearance! The Yak performed an energetic display very close to the crowd, but was certainly outclassed by the other fast jets, notably the noisiest and fastest aircraft at the show – the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. Appearing at the show courtesy of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Hornet only flew for a few minutes each day, but its amazing roll rate, high speed and noisy afterburner certainly caught the crowd’s attention!
Closing the show were the ROKAF Black Eagles. The Black Eagles fly eight T-50s, and, as their Squadron Commander, Colonel Sang Hyoun Park was keen to point out, they are one of only a handful of teams to fly locally-produced supersonic aircraft.
“It’s part of our national airpower to be able to show this kind of thing”, he told Global Aviation Resource the weekend before the show.
The team begins its routine with a short ribbon section with all eight aircraft in formation before flying a very polished vertical break known as Rainfall. The jets then enter an action-packed second half, starting with a spectacular opposition pass.
The team flies a number of totally unique manoeuvers, not least the Taegeuk, which sees two aircraft drawing part of the Korean flag in the sky, one of Colonel Park’s personal favourites.
Another popular segment is the Dizzying Break which sees four aircraft split in a similar fashion to the Red Arrows with its Gypo Break.
“It’s like skating on ice,” explains Colonel Park, with 1st Lieutenant Choi adding, “It’s really exciting, and it gets the crowd on their toes.”
UK airshow and aviation enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that Colonel Park is keen to revisit the United Kingdom, and later the USA and Middle East. The Black Eagles truly are one of the best teams around, and it would be great to see them become regular airshow participants in the West.
With the ROKAF Black Eagles the undoubted stars of the flying display, the Singapore Airshow 2014 ended on a real high, with spectators already looking forward to 16 – 21 February 2016!