Speech by Minister of State for Education Ms Gan Siow Huang at the Singapore Youth Flying Club Golden Jubilee - Private Pilot Licence Wings & Aviation Awards Ceremony

Published Date: 23 October 2021 09:30 AM

News Speeches

1. Good morning.

2. I am very pleased to join you to celebrate two significant milestones for the Singapore Youth Flying Club (SYFC) – the commemoration of the Golden Jubilee, and the Private Pilot License (PPL) Wings and Aviation Awards Ceremony for the 14 graduands.

3. First and foremost, my heartiest congratulations to our 14 young graduands who have earned your PPLs. It is a testament to your skill and aptitude as pilots, and your drive to excel. It must not have been easy to balance training and school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, you have proven yourselves capable of soaring beyond the challenges. Well done!

4. A special acknowledgment must go to your families, parents, and teachers for their steadfast support. It is only with your close partnership with SYFC that we can continue to fulfil the core mission of promoting aviation and inculcating a strong passion in flying among our youths. I am also glad that the SYFC has adapted quickly despite many disruptions from the pandemic, in order to keep flying training safe and CCA programmes going.

5. Singapore's founding leaders would be proud to see today's generation of young pilots take flight. It was only two years after independence when the British announced their intention to withdraw their forces from Singapore. Our pioneer generation quickly built up the air force from scratch, and by the time the bulk of British forces withdrew from Singapore in 1971, the Singapore Air Defence Command had become a credible force, and was later renamed the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

6. Our first Minister for Defence, the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, recognised that there was a long-term need for pilots in order to strengthen and maintain our fledgling Air Force. To sustain a steady pipeline of pilots, Dr Goh knew that an interest in flying must be seeded in young Singaporeans. And so in 1971, the Junior Flying Club was established. Starting with just a handful of flying instructors, eight Cessna 172s and six AT-6 Airtourers, the Junior Flying Club began providing free flying training to youths in Singapore.

7. The Junior Flying Club would eventually become today's Singapore Youth Flying Club. To date, over 7,000 students have gone through its flying programme and more than 1,200 students have attained their PPL. Beyond this, the SYFC also collaborates with the Ministry of Education to run a CCA programme that promotes an interest in aviation among secondary school students. Close to 15,000 students from 130 secondary schools have participated in SYFC's CCA programme.

8. Over 50 years, the SYFC has raised generations of aspiring pilots, and inspired many to go on serving in the RSAF. In fact, many successful RSAF pilots first learned to fly in the SYFC, several of whom are here today, including Secretary-General NTUC, former CAF and CDF, Mr Ng Chee Meng; Chief of Air Force, Major-General Kelvin Khong; and Chief-of-Staff Air Staff, Brigadier-General Lau Boon Ping.

9. SYFC's alumni also includes women whom I'm extremely proud of. They are Ms Sharon Walker, one of Singapore's longest serving female pilots, who has flown aeroplanes in the SYFC, RSAF, SilkAir, and is now a first officer in SIA, and Captain Julie Lim, who flies the F-15SG and was featured in the news for participating in Ex Forging Sabre in the USA recently.

10. I'm heartened that the SYFC continues to instil passion for flying among our youths. One of its trainees, Goh TJ, shared his reflection on his first solo flight:

"... it hit me as I looked across to the empty right seat, that I was finally going solo. I felt excited and confident as I took the airplane up into the sky. The effort and preparation from past sorties had culminated in this moment of flying alone in the aircraft, and I flew each segment of the circuit with precision as demanded by my Flying Instructor. I appreciated the freedom and serenity of flying, looking down at the runway and touching down safely."

11. I'd like to thank SYFC for helping our young men and women build confidence in themselves, be resilient, disciplined and tenacious, as they pursue their dream of flying.

12. I trust that our graduands today will be inspired to take to the skies, and join the ranks of our fellow pilots in the RSAF. Our Air Force is a formidable force, capable of holding its own in the world today. The RSAF keeps the peace in the skies above us, and plays a crucial role in ensuring that Singapore maintains our status as a global air hub. The RSAF will need tenacious, resilient and determined young Singaporeans like you to take on the mission to protect Singapore.

13. Congratulations once again to our graduands, and a happy 50th birthday to the SYFC. May you continue soaring to greater heights! Thank you.

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