TL;DR – The faces behind our Singapore flag flypast.
Every year when the State flag flies to Majulah Singapura during our National Day Parade, I’m pretty sure we can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride like no other. If you’d noticed, this is also when the camera used to pan to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew who would usually be holding up his binoculars to his eyes.
The annual state flag flypast is more than just a piece of fabric hoisted to a helicopter, it is the effort of some 300 men, countless hours and immense sweat to keep our flag flying high.
Or 18m x 27m. Which is about the size of a basketball court (50 x 94 ft).
The weight of the flag when fully rigged – or about half the weight of an Asian elephant. On its own, it is slightly less than 100kg.
Preparations involve a team of about 300 active and operationally ready national servicemen. The task of rolling up the 27m x 18m flag takes 25 people about two hours to complete.
In 1970, Singapore witnessed its first state flag flypast, originally measuring approximately 3m x 2m, by an Alouette III helicopter.
In 1987, the Super Pumas helicopter took over and flew a larger flag measuring 28m x 19m. This actually placed us in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest state flag in the world to be flown.
Today, the Chinook helicopter flies the flag. Covering an area of 5,400 square feet, it is more than 110 times larger than that flown by the Alouette III 40 years ago! It takes about two months during the months of March to May to stitch the flag by hand.
Because of the sheer size of the flag and the amount of precision required (the only deviation allowed is no more than 3mm) to ensure that the flag flies seamlessly, it is a fairly challenging task. This task is currently undertaken by father-and-son duo Lawrence and Zachary Yong alongside the rest of the family.
Zachary explains that his father had been the hands behind the production of the flag since 1987 and the 35-year-old has since taken over the responsibility.
Extreme precision and coordination is also required of the pilots and aircrew to ensure that that flypast happens as the right timing.
Have you ever noticed that the flag flies in perfectly timed to our National Anthem?
35 year-old Chinook pilot Liao Ming Hao explains how one of the key challenges of staging the flypast is the precision of the timing, “Having to arrive there within seconds of the stipulated time means that throughout the route, I need my flight crew to constantly advise me whether I’m early or late.”
This is made even more difficult by the fact that the pilot is unable to see the flag and thus relies on instructions from the aircrew specialist about when to fly faster or maintain speed.
“If the speed increases or reduces, the flag tends to fold at certain portions,” details Second Warrant Officer Vijaikumar, 42.
With this year’s flag flypast taking a new route as the parade takes places at the National Stadium, it will be flown past the stadium before making its way across the city’s southern coast pass the Esplanade, Marina Bay Floating Platform, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage, and Marina Bay Sands.
As you take in the sights of the flag against our breathtaking city skyline, perhaps you should also give some thought about the men (and women) who worked relentlessly to keep our Singapore flag flying high.