𝘾𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙞𝙧𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙛 𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙖?!
In the late 70s, global commercial flights rose dramatically and the former Singapore International Airport at Paya Lebar struggled to keep up with increased traffic volume. Expanding the airport there would sacrifice prime land, increase air traffic noise pollution and risk disaster on the ground should a mishap occur. How to have an ever-growing airport in a country as small as ours?
#ChallengeAccepted. We built it near the sea — with land from the sea.
The Royal Air Force base at Changi had been freed up with the withdrawal of the British. It could be expanded but only with the ambitious effort of producing land — 870 hectares — from our hills and from the sea. Site preparations began in 1975, with the demolition of 558 buildings, exhumation of 4,096 graves and the clearing of nearly 80 hectares of swampland.
The construction process was fraught with rising material cost and labour shortages but the project still finished ahead of schedule. The move from Paya Lebar to Changi was meticulously planned and Taiwan and Japan welcomed our teams to study their then-ongoing airport moving operations. The effort paid off: the move to Changi Airport took place in just one night with the last flight leaving Paya Lebar on the evening of 30 June 1981. Singapore Changi Airport became operational on 1 July 1981 at 7.10am with the arrival of Singapore Airlines flight SQ101 from Kuala Lumpur, and was officially opened on 29 December 1981.
Singapore Changi Airport has grown much bigger since then, with a fifth oncoming terminal expected to be larger than Terminal 1, 2 and 3 combined. Singapore’s Changi Airport is a story of careful ambition, built with foresight for long-term growth, and the fortitude to overcome challenges — values that will carry us through the ups and downs of our aviation industry.