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Wonders of World Aviation

A Reclaimed Swamp That Was made Into a Great Aerodrome


THE FLY PAST AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the Singapore airport on June 12, 1937






























THE FLY PAST AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the Singapore airport on June 12, 1937. In the foreground is part of the concrete “apron”, with one of the curved taxying strips running away towards the water in the background. This water includes the seaplane channel and anchorage.




THE geographical position of Singapore makes the island extremely important as a junction in the world’s airway system. One of the finest airports in the world was opened at the city of Singapore on June 12, 1937. The building of the airport was a well-planned work of engineering.


The entire landing ground was reclaimed from a great expanse of tidal swamp within walking distance of the city. Some 260 acres of land were reclaimed in all, but the aerodrome has the appearance of having been built on the most favourable of sites. Fever-infested lowlands, which would inevitably have needed some attention in the interests of the public health, have disappeared, and in their place there stands a land and sea airport modern in its conception and unusually complete in its equipment.


The landing ground is of circular shape and some 1,000 yards in diameter. As the rainfall of the territory reaches an average figure of 95-in a year, it has been necessary to provide some forty miles of special subsoil drainage, and the landing area slopes away from the centre with a gradient of 1 in 160. A few years ago liners of 3,000 tons floated on what is now the centre of this landing ground. Below the floor of the tidal basin was nothing but mud to a depth of more than 100 feet.


One half of the perimeter of the circular landing ground is washed by the sea, and the other half merges into the area in which are located the hangars, terminal buildings and flying club headquarters. The filling which was necessary to reclaim the swamp had to be brought from a hill four miles away, and trains carrying this material ran at eight-minute intervals, ten hours a day for four years. The total amount of filling was 7½ million cubic yards.


Before the aerodrome was opened to traffic, the ground was tested all over at a pressure of 5 tons per square foot. Since its opening it has been in continuous use in all kinds of weather, and has successfully withstood all loads imposed on it.


The total cost of the airport was more than £1,000,000, chiefly because of the vast amount of reclamation work which was involved. The expenditure was amply justified, however, and Singapore is now as proud of its airport as Sydney is of its great bridge.


The construction of the seaplane anchorage and channel involved the removal of two million cubic yards of mud and debris from the sea bed. Some of the dredged material was used in reclamation.


To reduce aerial obstructions to a minimum, all the airport buildings have been grouped together as closely as possible. The buildings are of ultra-modern appearance. The terminal building is rectangular, with a cylindrical control tower in the centre. Underneath this control tower is a lofty main hall, round which, on the ground floor, are the offices of the transport companies, a post office and a shop. At one end is a restaurant with a large roof veranda which provides accommodation for 2,000 spectators. At the other end are the Customs, passport offices and medical headquarters, arranged specially for the easy access of ingoing and outgoing passengers. Telescopic canopies are provided for the shelter of passengers. These canopies run from the

arrival and departure doors of the terminal building out to the aircraft on the concrete “apron”. The first floor is occupied mainly by the offices of the airport and meteorological staff, and has also sleeping quarters for the use of pilots.


The control tower, 50 feet above the ground, is reached by lifts from the ground floor. It contains a radio station at which direct reception is carried out. In the station are the remote controls for the transmitters, which, with the direction-finding equipment, are some two miles away from the aerodrome. They are connected by cables to the control tower. On the roof of the tower is a powerful neon beacon for the guidance of aircraft at night. There is an automatic device which may be switched into use, making this beacon send in Morse the letter S - for Singapore.


All the lighting of the airport is operated from a central switchboard in the control tower. From this point it is possible to switch on the orange boundary lights, spaced at intervals of 100 yards round the lauding ground; the illuminated wind T; six floodlights placed in such a way that any portion of the landing ground may be illuminated; and other floodlights for general lighting of the concrete “apron” terminal building and hangars.


6,000,000 Candle-Power


The electric lighting of the seaplane channel and anchorage is operated from the control tower as well. The waterway from the slipway out to the open sea is a dredged channel 600 feet wide, about a mile long and with a minimum depth of 6 feet at low tide. This channel is flanked on either side by a continuous timber boom designed for the exclusion of floating debris or other obstructions. The entire area is defined, at night, by electric lamps placed at intervals of 100 yards, and at the seaward end are two special buoy lights.


The landing floodlights are similar to those installed at many British airports, but are enclosed in housings specially designed for use in tropical conditions. These housings are provided with fans. One of the floodlights has a housing which is glazed all round instead of through 180° only; thus it may be rotated right away from the aerodrome and used for illuminating the channel for flying boats or seaplanes. Each of the six floodlight units uses six 1,000-watts bulbs, and the total candle power available from each unit is more than 6,000,000. Normally only two floodlights are used at a time.


All the lighting equipment is fed through underground cables. All obstructions to aircraft in the immediate vicinity of the aerodrome are equipped with red lights. Another useful addition to the complete lighting equipment is a set of three 200-watts portable floodlights which can be wheeled about and raised or lowered to any desired position for emergency work.


Singapore airport







AN IDEAL ARRANGEMENT for aeroplanes and seaplanes has been achieved in the planning of the Singapore airport. The circular landing ground is 1,000 yards in diameter, and all the buildings have been grouped together to cause as little obstruction as possible. The seaplane approach and anchorage is 600 feet wide and about a mile long. It is protected from floating debris by a continuous timber boom, and can be floodlit at night.










On either side of the terminal building are the huge hangars, each 300 feet long and 150 feet wide. Sites have been provided for two additional hangars at the extremities of the concrete apron, on the west side of which there is an efficient and modern fire station.


At the head of the seaplane slipway, which is 100 feet wide and inclined at a gradient of 1 in 15, is a paved concrete area for the handling of aircraft. This area is connected to the hangars by taxying strips. The lower end of the slipway is submerged at extreme low tide to a depth of 5 feet. Laid flush in the concrete of the slipway are four lines of rails which enable flying boats to be hauled up to the level concrete area. Beside the slipway is a wharf from which passengers, mails and freight may be transhipped to flying boats lying at anchor in the mooring areas. On this wharf is a 2-tons crane for handling aircraft engines and heavy stores of all kinds.


Traffic into and out of the airport is operated on the one-way principle, and spacious concrete roads connect the various buildings with the adjacent land. Thus it is possible to handle the maximum amount of traffic in a given time with the least possible confusion.


The arrangements for the handling of traffic on the landing ground are no less thorough. The concrete apron covers some fifteen acres, and on either side are the taxying strips, 100 feet wide, leading round the circumference of the circular landing ground.

This huge concrete surface provides ample room for the manoeuvring of aircraft and for the handling of mails and freight. An interesting innovation is the use of green concrete in front of the main buildings. This material is restful to the eye in the fierce tropical glare encountered at Singapore.


The lighting equipment of the hangars is an excellent example of the thoroughness with which Singapore Airport has been planned. Gas discharge tubes of 400 watts have been used, and the dispersive type reflectors with which they are fitted give. a high and uniform intensity of illumination. The hangars are provided also with lamp sockets which can be lowered on flexible steel wires by small winches on the walls. Hand lamps specially designed for easy clamping on to any suitable part of an aeroplane may be plugged into these hanging sockets.


A comprehensive loudspeaker system has also been installed, with a microphone in the control tower and four huge loudspeakers outside the building. The loudspeakers can carry intelligible speech over a distance of 700 feet, and the amplifying equipment can provide an undistorted output of 100 watts.


The original delay in the planning of an airport for Singapore has been amply justified by the excellence of the base today. Particularly is this so in view of the extensive use of flying boats by Imperial Airways, the site chosen being the only one which could have proved suitable for land and sea airport. It is supremely convenient for aeroplanes and seaplanes, and the enormous task of building it on such an apparently unfavourable site has been more than repaid by the final results. The city of Singapore can claim, for the present, to have the finest airport in the British Empire.


ILLUMINATING DEVICES of many kinds are used at the Singapore airport











ILLUMINATING DEVICES of many kinds are used at the Singapore airport. Shown right is one of the six floodlights which are arranged round the landing area. They are provided with special cooling apparatus To the right is the control tower, which has a neon beacon on the roof. This beacon can be made to flash the letter S - for Singapore - in the Morse code.
















[From Part 5, published 5 April 1938]



Singapore’s Great Airport