Sultan visits S'pore Airshow
By Waleed PD Mahdini in Singapore

The biennial Singapore Airshow 2012 received a royal boost yesterday when His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to visit the largest aerospace event in Asia.

Following the heavily-escorted half-hour ride to the Changi Exhibition Centre, His Majesty was greeted on arrival by Mr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Defence Minister and Lieutenant General Neo Kian Hong, Chief of Defence Force, Singapore Armed Forces, who escorted the monarch on a VIP tour of the exhibition.

Crowds of exhibitors and trade representatives alike stopped and parted for the royal visitor as many more took the opportunity to capture the moment with their cameras and mobile phones. Within minutes, His Majesty's entourage grew larger as curious onlookers followed the monarch along the tour.

The monarch was first taken to ST Engineering's massive exhibition booth that took centrestage where His Majesty was briefed on the latest military technology and products, which included the latest generation of naval vessels and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Boeing exhibition booth was the second stop for the monarch where His Majesty was shown a simulator of the F-15's advanced cockpit.

This was followed by a tour to several aircraft parked outside the exhibition centre. Riding on several executive buggies, the monarch and his delegation, which included Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; Major General Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin, Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces; and other senior government officials, were driven to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

His Majesty boarded the Dreamliner, which was painted in a blue and white livery, and was shown the advanced next-generation cockpit displays and controls, which as a seasoned pilot, His Majesty was very familiar with. So far a total of 870 Dreamliners have been ordered by 59 customers, which include Royal Brunei Airlines, as part of its modernisation programme.

The monarch was then led to a Sikorsky S70B Seahawk helicopter of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). His Majesty climbed onboard the matt grey military helicopter that belonged to 123 Squadron - the RSAF's first naval air squadron - where the monarch was briefed on the controls and displays.

The RSAF's F-15SG air superiority fighter was next on the royal tour where His Majesty also took time to climb onboard the cockpit to be shown the controls of the island republic's most formidable fighter jet in its military arsenal.

The monarch was driven back to the exhibition centre for a luncheon hosted by the Singapore Defence Minister at the ST Engineering Suite.

An aerial display was performed during the luncheon, treating the royal visitor to the deafening roar and raw power of the military fighter jets crisscrossing the clear blue skies.

The Singapore Airshow aerial display kicked off with some fancy flying by an F-16C/D and F-15SG of the RSAF. This was followed by more aerial manoeuvres and aerobatics that were displayed by a United States Air Force, Pacific Command C-17, which was also in the line-up during the aerial display of the Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition last year, as well as the Royal Malaysian Air Force's aerobatics team of No 19 Squadron, dubbed the Smokey Bandits, flying on Russian-made MiG29s Fulcrums.

The Singapore Airshow is one of the top three airshows in the world, which has attracted 900 exhibitors from 50 countries, displaying 65 of the latest and next generation of fighter aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and commercial jets that is expected to generate some $10 billion in total value of deals.

As soon as the aerial display was over, His Majesty was escorted to the Main Foyer before the Sultan was bade farewell by Mr Ng Eng Hen and Lieutenant General Neo Kian Hong. - Borneo Bulletin (17th February 2012)