Tight airspace? They'll still 'play' up there

SINGAPORE - Flying in the tight and limited airspace here will be an extra challenge, according to the aerobatic pilots from South Korea and Indonesia who will take to the skies at this week's Singapore Airshow.

A spokesman for the Republic of Korea Air Force's Black Eagles squad told The Straits Times that while the team is used to manoeuvring within a radius of 6 nautical miles back home, the maximum range here is about 4 nautical miles.

"We have had to adjust our manoeuvres and fly closer to each other," said Black Eagles commander Park Sang Hyoun.

But the team of eight pilots, who have trained together for a month, will do their best to "enjoy, play and give the crowd the best we can", Lieutenant-Colonel Park said.

From Tuesday, the Black Eagles will perform a 20-minute aerial dance at speeds of over 900kmh.

One highlight to look out for is the "Taegeuk manoeuvre", where two pilots will draw out the "Taegeuk" symbol at the centre of South Korea's national flag with white smoke trails.

Another is the finishing "victory break" move, where seven T-50B jets will streak across the sky in close formation before pulling apart to release plumes of red and blue smoke.

This will be the Koreans' second foreign outing since their 2012 international debut in London.

Their sentiments were shared by the Indonesian Jupiters, who said the airspace here was "limited", compared to what they were used to. In their 15-minute performance, the team of six flight instructors will execute 14 manoeuvres, including vertical loops, solo spins and rolls in their KT-1B Woong Bee propeller aircraft.

The Straits Times understands that the Jupiters will still perform, despite the withdrawal of Indonesia's top military brass from the airshow yesterday due to a diplomatic row.

Singapore had made its dismay clear after Indonesia decided to name a navy ship after two marines who bombed an Orchard Road building in 1965, leaving three people dead and 33 people injured.

Also performing will be United States Marine pilot Alex Rhodes, 27, who will fly the MV-22B Osprey in a six-minute solo aerial display.

"I will be demonstrating high-speed breaks, hover drills and how the aircraft can quickly switch from airplane to helicopter mode," said Captain Rhodes, who piloted the Osprey on a humanitarian mission in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines last year.

Singapore's own elite Black Knight pilots will also present a 22-minute aerial programme at the airshow for the first time since 2008.


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