Old Kallang Airport

The former Kallang Airport, Singapore’s first civil airport, was officially opened in June 1937. It took a total of six years and $8 million for the airport to be built on the reclaimed lands of Kallang Basin, which was formerly a huge mangrove swamp filled with crocodiles and mosquitoes. Thousands of tons of clay subsoil were transported to Kallang Basin – it took almost 6.2 million cubic metres to fill the dense swamp.

old kallang airport8

The early civil planes were landed at Seletar airport, which was built in the late 1920s and was the main airbase for the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1931, the Governor of Singapore Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947) proposed a location at Kallang Basin to serve as a new international airport to serve mainly commercial airplanes.

The buildings at Kallang Airport were designed with early-modernist British architecture fitted with Art Deco ornaments. The runway was a grassy zone which was also suitable for the landing of seaplanes. The airport’s boundary became what is known as Old Airport Road today. Kallang Airport in its early days had an excellent reputation, to the extent that it was dubbed to be the finest airport in the British Empire.

When the Japanese invaded from the north, Kallang Airport became the only operational airfield for the British to launch their fighters, due to Seletar, Sembawang and Tengah airbases being fall within the firing ranges of the Japanese artillery at Johor.

After the fall of Singapore, Kallang Airport was occupied by the invading forces and a concrete runway was built in place of the grassy one. When the Second World War ended, the British reclaimed the airport but it was not until 1949 before the civil traffic resumed.

Made of glass, steel and concrete, the Terminal Building was a masterpiece of Modernist style, designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, the Chief Architect of the Public Works Department. The building, with streamlined curves, striking horizontal lines and especially its control tower, became an iconic landmark at Kallang.

Used to park the various aircraft, the white hangars were built with simplicity and had amble spaces and lighting for the technical personnel to do their maintenance.

By the early 1950s, the increasing amount of air traffic at Kallang Airport strained its capacity, and in just a couple of years after its resumption, a proposal was laid out to build a bigger airport at Paya Lebar. Kallang Airport was officially closed after Paya Lebar International Airport was opened in August 1955.

After the closure of the airport, the buildings were taken over by the People’s Association (PA) in 1960, which made the premises its headquarters for almost 50 years, until 2009. The East and West Blocks of Kallang Airport formerly served as the airline offices. Together with the Terminal Building, hangars, the main gate and the lamp posts, they were gazetted for conservation in December 2008.

old kallang airport9

old kallang airport10

The Old Kallang Airport used to be linked to the former National Stadium by a pedestrian overhead bridge spanning over Nicoll Highway. The unique bridge, with extra wide pathway and had short lampposts installed on it, was built in the eighties, with one of its side ending at the large stadium carpark.

nicoll highway overhead bridge

nicoll highway overhead bridge2

nicoll highway overhead bridge3

Published: 23 July 2012

Updated: 01 November 2016

18 Responses to Old Kallang Airport

  1. Lee says:

    The place was used by the government as a motor repair workshop. I don’t know which government department was responsible for the whole place. I used to see PWD, PUB, Immigration, ENV and all kinds of government vehicles being repaired in those former aircraft hangers.

  2. Old Kallang Airport, c1960s

    (Source: Social Studies Textbook)

  3. donovan says:

    Is this still accessible for public? Any guards patrolling?

    • Jach Chua says:

      went there a few days ago. they’re clearing the gates as seen in Pic4. its a big construction site now, while the airport remains guarded by patrol cars and is gated up

  4. Oliver Osborne says:

    does anyone know who manages/owns it? or have a contact for them?

  5. kim says:

    Can people fly rx plane there? Size of rc plane is quite big lenght is about 5m and breath is about 6m and this plane is really fast. Can I?

  6. Lydia says:

    Hi, was doing research for marketing purpose for a new mixed residential project & chance upon this site, accordingly Kallang Airport is chosen as a venue for artworks, along with the transformation of kallang it will be combine with retail & F & B establishments. SG can expect more happening here when the new sports hub start rolling the action. I’m really forward.

  7. Monica says:

    Hi! Was it easy to get into the airport and how?

  8. seriously says:

    This place is nice on the outside 🙂🙂

  9. jet says:

    Most people do not know but the terminal was used as an exhibition/event hall in the 1960s and 1970s. After the stadium was built the exhibitions/events were transferred to a large basement below it. Therefore they are the direct ancestors of Suntec Exhibition Centre and Expo. I recall going to the it for an exhibition or event when I was very young.

  10. L.Malcolm Cloutt says:

    I flew in and out of Kallang after the Jap surrender. I was based at Mingaladon,in Burma flying Dakaotas. ON 10.3.46 i took three senior Jap` Officers for war crimes. More info from Mal1390695@yahoo.co.uk

  11. Mrs Carol Watts says:

    My father ( now sadly deceased ) was stationed at “ old shangi airport “ which presumably is known as Kallang Airport in early 1950’s in the RAF . He brought my mother to Singapore on a holiday in 1990 and looked around the airport which brought back such great memories for him .
    Would I be allowed to visit the area as a memorial to him when I visit your beautiful country ??

    • Gort Measey says:

      In the early 1950’s the old “shangi” airport as you called it, was the Changi Airport, used by the RAF. Kallang Airport very close to the City was the civil airport. When the Comet came into service in the early 1950’s, Kallang runway was too short for it so It had to land at the Changi airport. A new civil airport was being built when I was in Singapore in 1954 at Paya Lebar and became the main civil airport. Some after the RAF left Singapore the present international airport at Changi came into being, and Paya Lebar became the Singapore Military secret airport, so much so that when I visited Singapore in 1988 the map of Singapore I obtained showed a blank space where Paya Lebar is located. Looking at the size of the present Changi airport I imagine that many, if not all, of the buildings and possibly runways of the old RAF base have been demolished to make way for the present huge layout.

      • david semanchik says:

        Hello – is it possible to visit the airport site now? Interested in the seaplane channel that used to be used there.

      • Gort says:

        The Old RAF Changi airport is now completely covered by the present day international airport. So if you fly to Singapore you will land there.
        Regarding the seaplane channel you refer to, the RAF flew Sunderlands, or the RAF equivalent, when I was there in 1952-4 and they were based at Seletar Airbase, north east of the Island and they took off and landed on the channel between Singapore and Johor. The hard runways are still there if you look on Google Earth. It may now be an airport for executive flights.

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