With more than 40 years of service, Cletus Majella John Packiam, Chief of the Airport Emergency Services (AES), retired in May. He has played a vital role in the growth and progress of the AES during this time.
Chief Cletus saw Changi airport grow from handling 4 million passengers a year in the 1970s to taking care of over 65 million passengers in 2018, Changi Airport has grown tremendously over the past few decades. Likewise, the Airport Emergency Service has evolved greatly in tandem over the years in ensuring the safety of air travel in Singapore.
The AES first started in 1948 with just 30 men and 2 firefighting vehicles.
Today, the AES has expanded to a force of more than 500 staff and a fleet of over 70 firefighting vehicles and 9 sea rescue vessels, serving two civil aerodrome and five military airbases.
“I have witnessed significant improvement in the quality of our people. Their willingness to learn, improvise, and to do what is necessary in times of crisis gives me confidence about our future,” said Chief Cletus.
Through his 12 years at the top, Chief Cletus has led the AES in the building of its capabilities through maintaining rigorous training regimes, investing in state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and cultivating a no-tolerance-for-lapses culture. This has ensured the safety of millions of passengers who travel through our airspace every year. His extensive knowledge in aircraft rescue and firefighting, operational experience and safety acumen has also helped to establish a strong foundation for the AES team.
The 19 May 2019 was Chief Cletus’ last day of work. Taking over as the new Chief of the AES is Chief Alvin Lee, who has been in the emergency services field for the past twenty years, including seven years in AES. Prior to this, he has served in various command appointments, responsible for all strategic and operational planning as Head of Planning, managing the emergency services of both Civil Airports (Changi and Seletar) as Commander Civil and responsible for all aircraft rescue and firefighting operations at the RSAF Airbases as Commander Military.
A Change of Command ceremony was held on Friday, 26 April 2019, to formally effect the leadership change. The ceremony was witnessed by CEO Changi Airport Group (Singapore) Pte Ltd, Mr Lee Seow Hiang and Executive Vice President, Airport Management Mr Tan Lye Teck and attended by more than 200 airport partners, mutual aid agencies, staff and friends.
To get a broader understanding of the role Chief Cletus played in the growth of one of the major Airports in the world and winner of many prizes for customer service we should pen a few words about AES as it is today, reminding readers that AES started with just 30 men and 2 firefighting vehicles.
AES trains for every possibility to ensure that the fire safety standards across Changi Airport, Seletar Airport and the RSAF airbases are never compromised. From conducting exercises, executing aerodrome emergency plans, mitigating aircraft accidents, to planning emergency response for large-scale events, our team is poised to handle all emergencies within the airport vicinity. AES provide a Category 10 level of fire protection, the highest possible fire protection coverage in accordance to ICAO standards.
The Airport Emergency Service provides rescue and fire protection at both our airports -Changi and Seletar, as well as the RSAF Air Bases in Singapore.
At all times, AES fire-fighting vehicles respond to the scene of an aircraft accident in 2 minutes, not exceeding 3 minutes and bring the fires under control within a minute upon arrival. This is swiftly followed by rescue and evacuation efforts to nearby medical facilities.
In line with ICAO’s recommendation to deal with aircraft crashes in the waters surrounding the airport, AES is equipped with sea rescue capabilities. It has a fleet of emergency resources based in a Sea Rescue Base off the waters of Changi Airport. Operating highly specialized emergency vessels and equipment in the event of aircraft incidents out at sea, the Sea Rescue Base is also the only hovercraft operator in Singapore.
Many don’t understand that a modern airport is more than just a place to catch a plan, Changi airport is a shopping centre, a hotel complex, restaurant, theme park and entertainment centre. AES has to be able to handle a major aircraft incident as well as a major structural fire all while keeping the airport open to allow for the millions of people transiting through. 2018 was a busy year for Changi Airport, with 65.6 million passengers passing through its terminals, and seven new city links established to various destinations around the world.
AES has an impressive fleet of 10 emergency response vehicles. These include the Oshkosh Striker Foam Tender, which has the capacity for 10,000 litres of foam and 12,000 litres of water; a flight of emergency air stairs, designed to reach the upper deck of an A380 plane; and a high reach extendable turret, which can pierce through the hull of an aircraft to disperse dry chemical foam to put out fires.
For more information, go to www.Changiairport.com