Changi Airport may be the golden child of Singapore's aviation, but what’s little known even to locals is that Seletar Airport, a British Royal Airforce (RAF) station at the time, was where the island received its first civilian flight in 1930.
A new tour by Xperience DMC is shedding light on Seletar’s forgotten heyday and the role it continues to play in aviation.
Jane Goh, Managing Director of Xperience DMC, said: “Many guests are not aware of the history of the area, an integral part of Singapore’s development as an international aviation hub. On our tour they learn about its past history as an important RAF base and its modern importance in regional aviation.”
The eye-opening programme is also keeping the flying dream alive for young Singaporeans, with Goh sharing that many have expressed their desire to become pilots after the tour. “That, we feel, is the point of education.”
Guests get to explore the cockpit of a decommissioned plane during the tour.
What to expect
The Fascinating World of Aviation tour begins at the former guardhouse of the RAF station. Participants go on a drive, making stops at the black and white bungalows where RAF personnel used to live, as well as the former Seletar Airport.
In between, they learn about the aviation companies that have put Singapore on the map. To mix things up, guests also get to explore the Hampstead wetlands park, home to several migratory bird species.
These all build up to a crescendo – access to a private hangar and a rare vantage point where participants get an unobstructed view of the Seletar Airport runway.
“The finale and highlight for most is a visit to aviation facility WingsOverAsia where we will be treated to a guided tour of a hangar that houses privately owned aircraft, ending with a rooftop photo where guests can climb into the cockpit of a decommissioned plane,” Goh teased.
Participants can expect other fascinating sights along the way, from disused colonial goose-neck lamps to aircraft-inspired bus shelters.
Besides aviation history, guests also get to explore the Hampstead wetlands park, home to several migratory bird species.
The makings of a winning tour
This combination of lesser-known history and exclusive access has proven to be a winning mix, and not just among participants. At the recent Singapore Tourism Awards, the tour was named Outstanding Tour Experience under the Experience Excellence (Leisure) category.
The feather in Xperience DMC’s cap is also a story about how creativity, hardwork and, importantly, an undying hunger for discovery, triumphs through dark times in the tour industry.
Goh told Travel Weekly Asia about how a cycling trip sparked her curiosity about Seletar’s fascinating past. Before she knew it, she was pulled into a quest to uncover the stories and elusive remnants from what was once the largest RAF station in the Far East.
“I had joined my new-found cyclist friends for a leisurely ride through Seletar Aerospace Park after the circuit breaker last year, cycling through places I myself have never seen before. I felt that it would appeal to our local community who may not have ventured to this area due to its location, nor have much knowledge of the history or stories behind this special place," she shared.
A cycling trip provided Jane Goh with the inspiration for the award-winning Fascinating World of Aviation tour.
It was not an easy process, but the siren call of an unexplored area simply could not be ignored. Goh recounted: “[It was a challenge] to drive and cycle through the vast Seletar Aerospace Park countless times to look for the elusive remaining colonial lamp posts and heritage trees!”
Thankfully for curious tourists, the legwork has already been done.
Goh was determined to deliver a smooth and cohesive tour experience that also does the history of Seletar justice.“[A lot of effort went into] planning the route to ensure a smooth flow with no backtracking and to include not only the many aviation companies, but also the history and [natural attractions] of this amazing unexplored side of Singapore."
Xperience DMC's Fascinating World of Aviation runs for three and a half hours and can take 10-16 participants (broken into sub-groups in line with Singapore's Safe Management Measures).