Arrival of first paying passenger in Singapore by air
The first paying passenger to arrive in Singapore by air1 was American millionaire, Mr. van Lear Black, who also had the distinction of being the first aerial passenger to travel so far east.2 Van Lear Black landed at Balestier Plain on 29 June 1927 at about 11 am.3 The flight came eight years after the first plane landed in Singapore on 4 December 1919 and preceded the first commercial flight (on 11 February 1930) by three years.4
Van Lear Black was a wealthy American with banking and coal mining interests, who owned the Baltimore Sun as well as other newspapers in the United States. He had chartered the Dutch Fokker 7a Monoplane (with French-made “Jupiter” 400 H.P. engine) from the Royal Dutch Air Service (present-day KLM), to fly from London to Batavia. Apart from van Lear Black’s personal valet, those on board the flight included chief pilot G. J. Geysendorffer, co-pilot A.B. Scholte, and German mechanic Weber.5
The trip took 14 days from London, during which the plane was never airborne for more than eight and a half hours a day. The plane encircled the Balestier Plain several times before finally landing and breaking its tail piece in the process. Weber had to bring the broken tail piece to United Engineers at River Valley Road for repairs.6
By about 5 pm, large crowds had gathered on the scene for autographs, and policemen were called to assist in crowd control. At 7 pm Weber returned with the repaired tail piece. The repair team then cleaned, oiled and replaced the engine parts, until about 4 am the next day. The chief pilot arrived two hours later and a decision was made to fly the plane to the Race Course for final take off to Batavia. Initially pilot could not clear the houses on Balestier Road, and had to turn and re-land. After unloading aircraft seats, spare gear and even utensils, the pilot was successful in getting the plane airborne in his second attempt. At the Race Course, the aircraft was refitted with the unloaded gear and departed on 30 June 1927 at 8am, after van Lear Black had arrived with his valet. A crowd of well-wishers was there for the send-off, including Governor Sir Hugh Clifford and members of the diplomatic corps.7
1. Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 477. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 TYE)
2. Aeroplane arriving. (1927, June 29). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 477. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 TYE)
4. Hutton, P. (1981). Wings over Singapore: The story of Singapore Changi Airport. Singapore: MPH Magazines, pp. 18, 21. (Call no.: RSING 387.736095957 HUT)
5. Record flight. (1927, June 30). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 477. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 TYE)
6. Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 477. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 TYE)
7. Tyers, R. K. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 477. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 TYE)
Singapore fly-past: A pictorial review of civil aviation in Singapore, 1911-1981. (1982). Singapore: MPH Magazines, pp. 11, 18.
(Call no.: RSING 387.7095957 SIN)
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading.
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