Monday, August 27, 2007

Borneo Airways it was, Borneo Kites tis' now!

What's next after the Borneo Kites Festival? A Kite Museum for Bintulu........

Lutong Airport

Bintulu Airstrip circa 1955

A Brief History of Bintulu Aviation (Part 1 )

The "flying machines" that first appeared in the Borneon skies in the 1900's were really UFO's to the rural folks of Sarawak. Back then these "flying machines" did not arrive on land. Instead they floated at the mouth of the Bintulu River. They early aircrafts were called sea-planes. In the 1920's there were a regular sight in Bintulu. These sea-planes were used by the Sarawak Shell to do aerial photographic survey. Later the Brooke's government used them to undertake aerial surveys and reconnaisance flights to facilitate land development and for sending mail. In 1934, C.W. Bailey, who was the Works and Building Inspector with the Royal Air Force began supervising the construction of the Bintulu airstrip, but it was not completed because of the Japanese occupation of Sarawak. Sadly it was reported that in 1958, Bailey was killed in Singapore due to an air crash. The Japanese made full use of the airstrip for military purposes throughout their occupation days. It was only when they left Sarawak that the British began reconstructing the totally ruined airport due much to Allied bombings .

After the war was over, the Sarawak government re-continued with the construction of the airport which saw on 26 August,1955 the first landing of a civil aircraft named "Rapide" , a twin rotor aircraft with wings made of canvas.

A Twin Pioneer 16-seater plane later replaced the "Rapide". This type of plane was extensively used by the Borneo Airways Limited when they operated regular flights to Kuching, Miri, Sibu and Bintulu. Only after 1963, when the runaway was widened that an all weather airport was achieved bringing in bigger capacity planes like the Fokker Friendship. These planes were used by Malaysia Singapore Airlines because of rising demand in air travel throughout Sarawak and North Borneo ( later called "Sabah").

Forty years ago, i.e. on 9-1-67, I flew for the first time in my life from Bintulu to Miri in order to continue my secondary school education. That flight was most memorable coz I got to keep my first ever plane ticket from MSA. And for the record, with me on the same plane was En. Mohidin Ishak ( now Haji ) and holding post of General Manager BDA presently.

We landed on 9-1-67 at Lutong airport by courtesy of Sarawak Shell , of course.