Category Archives: airplanes

The Friendly Flying Dutchman

Built in Holland by the Fokker Aircraft Company, this short-range turboprop airliner, called ‘Friendship F-27’ was extremely popular worldwide.  

The forerunners of MAS – MSA, and even Malayan Airways – were early adopters of this reliable workhorse. Besides MAS, later on smaller airlines like Pelangi Airways also flew these types (for some time). Haiz, I never had an opportunity to travel in one of these fabulous turboprops.

It began life in the 50s, and was upgraded many times – culminating in later versions as F50/60.  There were also military versions used by a number of air forces around the world.

However, in the fierce dogfights of the aircraft industry, friendship was not enough for survival and Fokker had to shut down in 1996.

The Real Phantom Menace

More than 35 years before George Lucas made it good, real Phantoms were wreaking havoc from the skies over Vietnam.

In operation with the US Marines, Navy and Air Force, the McDonnell Phantom F4 became the Americans’ mainstay for ground attacks against the North Vietnamese army and the Vietcong.  Its huge bomb payload was a real menace to troops and equipment – and often civilians.

However, in air-to-air dogfights against the much lighter and more agile MiG-21, it was out-manoeuvred by its Soviet ballerina-like opponent.

Equipped with just Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, which did not help very much at closer-range combat, its lack of a gun was its Achilles heel.

Mirages Over My Roof

In the days of my youth, I used to see Mirages over my attap-roof top.  These were not  hallucinations, but sure enough they got me underway as a junkie – an aircraft junkie, that is.

My house was just about 5km from the then RAAF airbase, and among others, Mirage III-0 fighters would roar over my rooftop whole day long.  It was fascinating to watch those tail-less delta-winged fighters in their takeoff climbs — especially at night, with orange -and-blue flames shooting out from their afterburners.

The shockwaves always managed to shake some little worms from the underside of my attap roof, and send them dropping down onto the floor, or anything or anyone that passed underneath them.  But no complaints from me.

I miss the Mirages — all I get now in Singapore are some loathsome crows and their “caw-caw-caw”.

Honey, They Shrunk The Jumbo

It was Boeing’s stubby B747-SP.  This Special Performance jumbo was introduced in 1978 in a makeshift response to the advent of the trijets, namely the Lockheed Tristar and the DC-10. It was 48 feet shorter than a regular 747.

It cruised higher (@45,000 feet) – supposedly above the turbulent layers of the atmosphere — and 10% faster, apparently giving passengers a more comfortable flight.  But the project was a commercial flop and only 45 were ever produced.

Among the airline operators were Saudi Arabian, Iran Air and South African Airways. The last Iran Air 747SP was retired on 23 September 2014.

In 1986, I had the privilege of flying in this aircraft from HKG to SFO and back via operator Pan Am.  I cannot recall anything special in the flight experience : of course, I did make it back to tell the story.

‘Twas Not Like Flying A Kite

My first and only visit to Pulau Tioman, was in 1990. In the twinkling of an eye, a quarter of a century had flown by.  The Twin Otter of Pelangi Airways (photo) that my wife and I took from Singapore Seletar Airport to the island resort could seat probably 20 people, but on that trip there were only 8 passengers.

When we boarded, we saw each seat had a straw fan, and a tetrapak packet drink. Enroute to Tioman, the pilot recognized a friend in the cabin, chatted and then invited him to take over the controls — just to try out !!   Some unexpected thrill that was!

Later, I asked the pilot if I could also try.  He asked me, “Any previous flying experience, Sir?”  I answered, “Kite“.   And he said, “Sila balik duduk baik-baik” (meaning, please go back and sit properly”).