Singapore’s Black Knights aerobatic team has been reformed for the seventh time to wow the crowd at this year’s show. The six Lockheed Martin F-16Cs have been painted in a snazzy new red-and-white design. Led by Lt Col Joseph Leong, 44, a 26-year veteran of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the team’s pilots are all experienced instructors with a minimum of 1,000 hours in the Fighting Falcon.
And it shows. It takes particular skill to present six high-energy jets within the confines of Changi’s restricted airshow airspace. The Black Knights pilots have each flown over 130 hours in the past six months, as they worked up their 21-minute routine. Often, the team would fly twice a day.
“Jet aerobatics is an extension of fighter maneuvers, adding grace and precision,” said Leong. “But we’re closer together, and lower, than in normal operational flying,” he added. The team flies no fewer than 15 four or six-ship formations, interspersed with nine passes by numbers five and six. Watch out in particular for a noisy and dynamic criss-cross maneuver, the tricky-looking double inverted wrap, and the final upward bomb-burst where the trailing aircraft dispenses defensive flares.
The six pilots are backed up by a team of 28 men and women on the ground. “The Black Knights’ precision, tight formations, skillful and spectacular maneuvers are a source of great pride for Singapore,” said Singapore’s Ministry of Defence.