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It has been an intense 4-day Singapore National Day weekend. During this time, the Singapore Air Force’s Black Knights aerobatic team performed daily with their nimble F-16C‘s in the vicinity of the Marina Barrage. That jet should require no introduction; apart from the USAF, only South Korea, Greece, Poland, Israel and Singapore are known to own these aircraft. Fast and nimble, the Fighting Falcons are truly formidable.
Back to the humans, the 6-pilot team is somewhat unique in that it is not a full time squad. Think of them as living life like part-time Blue Angels. This time round, the team was formed some 6 months prior to the actual National Day Parade performance.
Flying during the Southwest Monsoon season is challenging at best, and doing maneuvers at low altitude does not make things any easier. The Black Knights were slated to perform for 3 days. Spoilers: It was raining sideways on day 1, and utterly overcast on the other 2. Of course, the show must go on.
I bore witness to their rainy day routine, primarily comprising fixed formation flying. However even that backup plan had an ace up its sleeve: The Dedication Pass. Comprising 4 jets in a diamond formation with another 2 spiraling around it as it passes, it has to be seen to be believed. Better yet, they did it twice.
After the torrential downpour on day 2, the team managed to deliver on their full repertoire of 22 maneuvers. The routine repeated itself on the third day. Amongst the crowd pleasers were the Criss Cross whereby 4 jets would turn to cross over one another in dangerously close proximity.
Another exhilarating maneuver involved 2 jets running right by one another in a game of chicken with F-16C’s. Just about anyway.
Aircraft aside, it was unfortunate that the Red Lions parachute team did not manage to make their jump on the National Day proper due to poor cloud conditions (We would have gotten away with it if not for you meddling monsoon…) This year was especially special, with the 6-strong team free falling from over 10000 feet. However, it should be noted that they duly carried out their duties in a suitable fashion at the rehearsals. This was despite the moment of excitement during one rehearsal when a parachutist’s main chute failed to deploy and the reserve had to be used.
The parachute routine involves the parachutists forming up in a ring and popping smoke. By 5000 feet, they burst out away from one another to prep for the landing. By 4000 feet the chutes are deployed and a second smoke is popped by 2000 feet as the final descent is made, landing the brave folk right in the middle of the performance area before a cheering crowd.
Overall I would say that the National Day festivities have been meticulously arranged and impeccably delivered. It is something to be appreciated, having this large number of rehearsals and previews allowing a larger section of the populace (and its tourist segment) to join in, celebrating Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. Happy SG50 one and all!
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