Saturday, October 2, 2010

Low-flying concern for residents

Oct 2, 2010

YESTERDAY'S report ('RSAF helicopter makes forced landing in Woodlands field') is a stark reminder that for all our emphasis on safety protocols and meticulous attention to maintaining and servicing combat aircraft, there is cause for concern.

I live along a stretch of road in the East Coast that lies directly in the path of aircraft making their landing in Paya Lebar Air Base. The planes fly extremely low, and are barely metres above the rooftops of some of the neighbouring apartments.

[This is a standard requirement for landing planes. The planes that are attempting to land, should preferably, gradually reduce their altitude. This requires them to slowly get lower and lower. The alternative of being very high and then suddenly drop to ground level has been found to be greatly increase the chances of crashes to about 100%. This is generally considered a bad landing technique.]

I have also seen the Hercules aircraft in low-level flying, encircling the airbase. What safety measures does the Defence Ministry have in place to protect residential areas? What parameters are used in determining that these low flight paths are safe?

Are exhaustive methods used to train pilots on what to do should an emergency occur at different stages of the landing approach?

[We try not to use exhaustive methods to train our pilots otherwise when they too exhausted, they tend to make mistakes, like crash their planes into your house. We therefore use comprehensive methods so the pilots can comprehend (that means understand) the landing procedure and what to do in case of emergency. We also have contingency plans. This is in case the pilot cannot control his bladder (incontingent; in Hokkien, jio kin) which may make him try to land the plane too fast and thereby cause the plane to crash into your house.]

Are there alternative landing paths that would not place the land approach right above densely populated areas?

[As the plane needs to fly lower and lower as it lands, the buildings along the landing path are restricted to low rise buildings. For example, we would never have built Pinnacle@Duxton along the landing path. So population density is already lower; there are fewer people living along the flight path. However, if by "population density" you mean how "dense" (stupid) the population is, that is not important for the landing of the plane. In any case, most likely the people living there are either dense or hard-up. They should already know that they are in the landing path, they still stay there! Or they buy the homes there very cheap (cos the sellers irritated by noise of planes landing and taking off, and buyers know so they bargain the price down. So those that buy homes there also probably a bit cheapskate or hard-up: want landed property but can't buy better location. ]

Should the ministry consider relocating the air base?

Dr Yuen Siu Mun

[Dr Yuen asks what safety measures are in place to protect residential areas. The answer is: none. You're all going to die! Crash and burn, man! Crash and burn!

Alternative Answer: We depend on the pilots' sense of self-preservation to ensure that their planes are in airworthy condition, and not to crash at all. The persons most likely to die are those on the plane. This includes the pilot. They cannot choose to be elsewhere at that time. (Unless they use the emergency parachutes.) There is at least a chance that residents may be at some hawker centre eating (or in the office, etc) when the plane crashes into their homes. So they can still survive. However, we note that the presence of parachutes may promote laxity in ensuring planes are airworthy and that pilots exercise due care in landing their planes. We are therefore removing parachutes from all aircrafts from now onwards. Dr Yuen can be assured that the pilots will be henceforth even more cautious and crash-adverse.

Should the airbase be relocated? Where to? The airbase has been there for 30 years. The low flying aircraft has been flying low for 30 years. It's about time one of them crash soon. So, move already! Why you still hanging around there? Wanna die issit?
Anyway, we did a quick check. The people in Serangoon Gardens also don't want the Airbase near there. They say already got foreign workers dormitory, so should give other people a chance to sacrifice for the country.

Comment: The writer has seized this opportunity to make a case for moving Paya Lebar Airbase elsewhere (as long as it's not in my backyard - NIMBY)! If he succeeds, his property will appreciate in value. However, the current site has already been in existence for 30 years as an Airbase, and longer, if you include the years it had operated as an International Airport. The surrounding area has been zoned and restricted in development to ensure that there is a safe path for aircraft landing. Moving the airbase is not going to be easy in land scarce Singapore. Any other site will mean introducing a new disamenity to residents, not to mention demolishing buildings that are too tall in the flight path. This would mean additional costs. There are probably few if any viable sites left in Singapore. However residents in the path of landing aircraft by now should be used to the disamenity, or if not should have moved out long ago. There is little point in moving the airbase. Moreover in 30 years of operations, there has been no crashes into residential areas. The writer can either decide that one is long overdue and move before it happens, or take comfort in the track record. For comparison, the former Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong was surrounded by densely packed residential areas, and there has been no crashes despite the high volume of air traffic.

To take a singular episode which ended with no loss of life and minimal risks to civilian lives, and to blow it out of proportion, presumably for his own property value, is fear-mongering for fun and profit. To suggest that there is a real danger and yet to stay put in his current residence, is disingenuous.]


El Lobo Loco said...

Update: Official reply. Note the point about "comprehensive" procedures. :-)

Oct 5, 2010
Pilots trained to ensure public safety: Mindef

THE Ministry of Defence and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) take the well-being of residents living near our airbases very seriously (Dr Yuen Siu Mun, 'Low-flying concern for residents'; last Saturday).

Over the years, the RSAF has made modifications to its training and flight profiles to minimise flying over populated areas.

RSAF training and flight profiles comply with international aviation norms governing minimum flying altitudes.

These altitudes, prescribed by international aviation bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Federal Aviation Authority, are also adhered to by commercial aircraft.

As part of our pilots' training regime, they must practise comprehensive emergency aircraft handling drills and procedures regularly. Therefore, in the event of an emergency, they are well trained to ensure the safety of the populace.

Colonel Desmond Tan
Director, Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence

Dash said...

Hahah, love your matter-of-factly replies to this!

Siok zooooooms!