Display of derring-do

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The crowds squealed with delight when 20 F-16 fighter jets zoomed over them in a "50" formation.

Marking Singapore's 50th year of independence - and also the Golden Jubilee of the Singapore Armed Forces - the warplanes soared at 600kmh, bringing spectators to their feet to snap the best pictures.

But bad weather denied the Red Lions, a perennial crowd favourite, the chance to wow the spectators.

The parachutists' jump had to be called off due to low cloud cover which obstructed their view of the landing area. The chairman of the Parade's executive committee, Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong, said the safety of the Red Lions was its "foremost concern".

Monitoring the goings-on of the aerial segments was fly-past marshal, Lieutenant Colonel Benny Lui, who also had his eyes on the clock before him.

Dubbed "Mother Goose", he had to maintain communications with all 51 aircraft involved in the show and ensure that their entrances were spot on. One second too soon and the effects would have been ruined. One second too late and there would have been awkward pauses.

"Can you imagine if the helicopters carrying the state flag arrived before the National Anthem?" said the 46-year-old. "We strive to get the timing down to the second."

Singapore Airlines also made its debut at the parade with its Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger aircraft. The plane soared past the audience sporting a 10m-tall and 47m-long Singapore flag-themed design on both sides of its fuselage.

The Black Knights, with their bomb burst, criss-cross and near-vertical climb manoeuvres, also drove the audience wild.

Healthcare worker Lee Koon Tan, 47 , said: " What they do is difficult and amazing. I love the sound they make too."

But it was those at Marina Bay Sands SkyPark who got closest to the aircraft, including 25 children from the Children's Cancer Foundation and Dyslexia Association of Singapore, and their parents. MBS reserved an area for them and arranged for a live Parade screening.

Lee Shawn Kit, 10, a beneficiary from the Children's Cancer Foundation, said: "The fly-pasts were very cool. I'd never seen them up close like that before."

This article was first published on August 10, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.