12/09/2012

My RSAF story


Sometime in April 1969, I quit my first job of a few months, climbed up a 3 tonner and was on my way to Seletar Air Base. It was RAF Seletar, a British base in the Far East of the British Empire. There were two of us at the back of the 3 tonner. Singam was a former school mate and we were rather surprised to meet again in the oddest of all places. We did not realise that we were the last two recruits to fill up the remaining positions for the first batch of pilot trainees for our infant air force. It was too small to be anything and they called it the Singapore Air Defence Command.



Seletar had a little airfield with a little air traffic control tower that would be our training school for the training we were to receive in flying. It was a crash course really. We jumped down the 3 tonner to get a glimpse of the air force we came to join. And the whole air force was right in front of us, two Cessnas, a 170 and and 172 if I did not remember wrongly. For those who are not familiar with aircraft, these Cessnas were light aircraft, piston engine with a propeller in front, used for joy ride by hobbyists in the Flying Club. We were impressed. Never seen an aircraft at such closed range, and never knew what an air force was like.



The Chief Flying Instructor, a Major Foster and a Major Ogden greeted us on arrival. My gosh, two senior English gentlemen in flying suits warmly received these two young men still in civilian attire. In 1969, the locals were still quite unfamiliar with the faces of our ex colonial masters. But they were great guys, seasoned pilots from the RAF. After a few pleasantries we were introduced to another few senior trainee pilots, Andrew, Pat, Tony, Norman and a couple of others.



Andrew was tasked to show us around the aircraft to get us familiar with the machine that would take us up in the air. He walked us through and showed us what was a flap, an aileron, pitot tube, propeller and all the external parts of the Cessna. We did not know that that was Lesson Number One of ground school. Back in the class room at the tower we were given two books on the principles and theory of Flight. Read and ask if we did not understand what we were reading. The senior trainees would be there to help. The content was quite elementary, really. We were genius.



After lunch, Major Foster came to take me for a joy ride. Everything happened so fast, it was like a dream. Joined the SADC in the morning, went flying in the afternoon. And that was Flying Lesson Number One, to test how we reacted to air sickness.



In about a week I went solo. Unbelieveable. I did not even have a driving licence nor  have I driven a car. Then I flew cross country into Johore, over Yong Peng, Layang Layang, Gunong Pulai and a few other small towns, alone. The only thing that I could still remember was the last minute safety advice, to ditch into any open area if the aircraft developed any trouble or engine failure. I was on my own, with only a few hours of flying and barely any knowledge of emergency drill. Partly ignorant, partly foolish, partly young and innocent, everyone one of us went through the routine to prepare us for a Private Pilot Licence. That was the basic requirement for further training in the UK. We did not know what was fear, what was dangerous then. If we ditched, we would be in the news, history. Quite a number of pilot trainees did become history while learning how to fly along the way, the heavy price the young men paid and were mostly forgotten.



All in all it took me one and a half months to get my PPL. I did not know it was that easy. I remembered taking more than a year to get my driving licence a few years later and had to struggle to pass the highway code. During this short phase of our training the 3 tonner driver, NSman, faithfully fetched the handful of us every morning from RAF Tengah to Seletar and back. There was no time for drills or learning how to march. One moment I was an Officer Cadet. The next moment I was a second lieutenant without any basic military training or knowledge of the army rituals. I actually did my basic military training in an Officer Cadet Training School, in RAF Henlow, UK.



Then on that fateful day of May 13, 1969, 5 young men, including myself, left Paya Lebar International Airport to join the first batch of pilot trainees already in the UK to be trained by the RAF as the pioneers of the infant air force. This was part of the deal offered by the British prior to handling over the military facilities to our Govt.



Imagine how time flies and how things were in those days. No ground school, no flying school of any kind. And if I am not mistaken, of the two Cessnas, one was on loan from the Flying Club. The sole possession of the SADC was a solitary Cessna 172 when the Air Force first started. Maybe this was also on loan from the Singapore Flying Club.



A little unusual thing happened while I was going through the crash course. I was officially AWOL from the Police Reserve Unit I was attached to for my part time NS. Everything happened so fast that no one informed the PRU of my enlistment into the SADC. The police went looking for me, probably with a warrant of arrest. I was in camp and did not know what actually transpired. They must have sorted things out after that and I did not hear from them anymore. Those were the days that anything goes and all rules were meant to be broken. There were organisations and rules that were often overtaken by events.

18 comments:

agongkia said...


Those born somewhere during your generation are lucky.Maybe no need O level oso can be pilot , general or tua kow.No need to test on IQ.Think those with pig brain oso can don on uniform with pangkats.

You miss your chance.Should stay in the civil service or RSAF and who knows,today you may become the Transport Minster and I dun have to worry about fare increase whenever there is a strike.
But who can guarantee that man of those days who join the RSAF,Navy or SAF has a brain to deal with crises or solve problem other than reading jungle map.

How good if I am born on those days.


Anonymous said...

RBI, hmmm y mentioned may 13, 1969 that was the day racial riot broke out in Malaysia, I thought you were called to be on high alert!

Padaly said...

Yes those good old days where rules and procedures not so strict and could be bent easily for the common good. Those ground commanders or in charge are empowered and could just give a call to settle or sort out things. Nowadays, everything goes by the book even if it's rudiculous. They just refuse to hear from the ground feedback. That's one good way to CYA. Cover your ass. Just follow by the book and nothing will ever happen to those in charge - never mind stupid rules. Their jobs will not be affacted. That's the problem with our present society.
If you strike, you break the laws and you will be struck. Never mind that the management refused to listen or you are ignorant of the law or that you are not unionized etc They won't buy your story that its a last minute desperate attempt at justice. Go MOM also need black and white to show and prove your case. Telling them verbally the injustice or pay dispute no point falls on deaf frogs. Must have document proof then they will look into it. The art of tai chi and CYA has reached perfection as we churn out more and more educated retards running the ever expanding bloated administration machinery. Think of the countless stat boards, depots, town councils and yes mayorships too! But is our life better now or back then when we first started as a young innocent struggling nation fourty over years ago?
SOPs and rules are there for you to follow. If anything happens, you will be whacked first for not following them! We will talk the rest later. Whether in good faith or initiative don't matter here.
You story highlights the good old days of the developing stage of nation building when we were poor and struggling with no assets and zero billions of reserves. Now that we are developed with tons of reserves yet we are still so bitter cuz greed and avarice sets in. Loyalty, seniority and other intangible values do not matter and not part of KPI. Turf wars is the order of the day with tai chi and politicking the norm now. Bottomline and profits matter. your pink IC is wortless when you grow old and sickly even though you and many true natives built this piece rock to the world's richest country! You now need to fend for yourselves since the state has forgotten about your past contributions. You are now worthless and a burden to the state! If possible you shld go over to JB to fade and die. Tons of young able FTs are ready to replace you. Even though now we got billions, we don't want to waste a single cent in your poor wretched soul! What has gone wrong? Reflect on those facts and think deeply cuz your turn will eventually come.

Padaly said...

Typo error. "depots" shld be "depts".

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Yep, left on May 13 without an inkling of the troubles up north. Only read it in the papers in London. There was a news blackout here I think.

As a people, more at the top, it is always about self serving. They have lost their conscience and morals, and we have lost our country and even our savings.

Padaly said...

Those elites have lost their compass and we have lost our bearing! We are at a loss which direction we are heading. Sadly as a nation, we are in a state of confusion. That's why there is this NatCon hopefully to calibrate and re-aligned our bearings. Regrettably the principle is laudable but the political will is lacking.

Padaly said...

As they say: tembak tak kena, chakap tak guna. It's the culture and mindset here.

Anonymous said...

Limpeh has completely brainwashed Sinkies into thinking that only the elites (as defined by Limpeh) is capable of leading Singaporeans into our next era of greatness.

Whenever I read anything LKY says, I always cross-reference it with the American Declaration of Independence.
It's a simple one page document.
But it encapsulates the essence of what makes America great.
"That all men are created equal..."
i.e. that we the common people have the inalienable right & capability to make a difference.
The phrase "boh pian" does not exist.

Below are the key paragraphs;

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

If you change your mind, you can change your world.

If you believe this feels right, spread the message to your friends & relatives.

Veritas said...

RB, you are really the best among your batch. You even make it to the fledging pilot course. You must have accumulate considerable wealth today.

Over the years, you must have rub shoulders with many powerful people in Singapore. And normally, your group of people, "aged" and "rich" are generally leaning towards reactionary. Those with left leaning are often someone with other agendas like LGBT, or depravement.

Yet your writings are moral and full of socialist and equality. I salute you. You resonate with the Fajar generations.

Even I consider myself as socialist and are reasonably well-informed, my channel of information is much more inferior. I can only get informations by studying tons of books and digging archives.

Your insights and idealism is really invaluable. You are also quite open-minded. Your idealism is still not dead over the years?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Veritas, my wealth is in my health, my experience and my children and grandchildren. I must say that I have been exposed to many aspects of life, seen many things and one many things that I never thought I would have done.

Anonymous said...

more autobio stuff please, rebean. we younger ones really like to know what went on in the 60s, 70s & 80s. we already know the PAP version through our social studies texts. we'd like to know the real version.

Anonymous said...

Most Singaporeans know their beloved state is terminally ill. However, they are non-chalant, as they are powerless to do anything. It is also obvious that many are prepared to sink with it, for they feel helpless and hopeless themselves.

In which peaceful country in the world does the people hope to celebrate the death of it's founding father and wish for it to happen fast?

Ready to toast your champaynes?

Walau said...

Red bean, I always enjoyed your articles, it's a must read for me every morning. Though sometimes I need to read it twice as I am not sure u are serious or not! But at the end, the ideas sliced through the articles you wrote and it is clear what you mean. That is mean what u write and write what you mean.

The said...

/// Ready to toast your champaynes?
December 09, 2012 4:31 PM ///

Hear, hear!

As Francis Bacon would say:

Champagne for My Real Friends,
Real Pain for My Sham Friends

Anonymous said...

December 09, 2012 4:31 PM
"In which peaceful country in the world does the people hope to celebrate the death of it's founding father and wish for it to happen fast?"

Must be a PAPig trying to re-write history.
Raffles founded Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Wah! How can Sinkies be so evil?
Singapore is founded by LKY.
Before LKY, Singapore was just a fishing village.

Then LKY (Prince of Palembang) and the PAPigs landed on Singapore on a hunting mission. And LKY saw a lion. And so LKY decided to name the island Singapura or lion city. This marks the founding of ancient Singapore.

Fast forward a few hundred years later, LKY while working for the British East Indies Company; thought that Singapore would be an ideal trading post for Britain. LKY and the PAPigs then went on to found modern Singapore in 1819.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Those were the days my friend....

I will try to reminisce the past once in a while, to reflect on things gone by, on the weekends. Age is catching up and the story untold will be lost : )

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Let me revealed a little secret of my first solo cross country flight. Nobody knew except me.

As I was entering Tengah's control zone at something like two or three thousand feet, I came face to face with a huge cumulus crowd. No way could I fly through that mess without any Instrument Flying Training. Can go back or sideways either. I just had to descend.

Called Seletar for permission to descend but heard nothing. Message too garble. Then the crowd was right in front of me. What the heck, down I went beneath the crowd to keep good visibility.

As I came through, at the distance I could see two Lightnings jets heading away from me. Was I lucky? Or were they lucky? The Chinese saying, die also dunno how to write.

Some of you asking me to write autobio. This is not an easy thing to do. Only the rich and famous should be writing such stuff for progeny.

Maybe I could write something about river and lake of the 70s. About Morgan, the White Face Wanderer and how he stormed into Jianghu with everyone guessing where he came from...if I could find the inspiration to do it.