Official Opening of Paya Lebar Airport
#onthisday (20 Aug) in 1955, Paya Lebar Airport officially opened after three years of development, replacing Kallang International Airport as our gateway to the world.
When it was first opened, some called Paya Lebar Airport the finest in Asia: it had the latest approach and runway lighting, modern radio navigational aids, and surveillance radar. The arrival hall was built in the Modern style, with high ceilings, black and gold marble pillars, and an iconic mushroom-shaped information counter. A mural of Raffles Place embellished the arrival hall, while another depicting life in Singapore enlivened the rooftop viewing gallery. The airport was even featured in foreign films, including Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack (1979) and Georg Marischka’s Peter Voss, Hero of the Day (1959).
For 26 years, Paya Lebar Airport served as Singapore’s commercial airport. In this time, air travel continued to expand rapidly, and Paya Lebar Airport responded with expansions that included a runway extension from 8,000 to 9,000-ft in 1962 (one of the longest in Asia at the time), and passenger terminals in 1964 and 1977.
However, all that was not enough. In 1960, the airport was processing 300,000 passengers a year. But by 1970, that number had shot up to 1.7 million a year. As Lim Chin Beng, then-Director of Administration of the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines said, ‘it was very clear we needed a new airport. Paya Lebar had runway capacity, but that wasn’t the problem. The huge traffic was.’
And so plans began for a new commercial airport in Changi, which opened in 1981. Paya Lebar Airport still stands today, as part of the RSAF’s Paya Lebar Air Base. But with the relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030s onwards, new plans are being made to transform the space into “a community of the future”. What ideas will take flight there? What will arrive and what will go? How should Singaporeans today pass on Paya Lebar’s heritage to Singaporeans tomorrow?
Find out more about Paya Lebar Airport’s redevelopment here: https://www.ura.gov.sg/…/Urban…/Paya-Lebar-Airbase