Sunday, January 24, 2010

Former RMAF pilot, newscaster passed away

The Star Online reported sad news in its Ex-newscaster dies of cancer.

Robert Lam passed away early this morning at the University Malaya Medical Centre, after suffering from skin cancer for some time.

My uncle knows Robert Lam as a casual acquaintance, but has only very good words for the late Robert. He said Robert was an absolute gentleman, very soft spoken and in excellent English too. Unc told me the following:

Many didn’t realize that Robert was a RMAF pilot in the air force's early days. He flew an aeroplane called the Single Pioneer which apparently could land, as my uncle probably exaggerated, on a postage stamp. It was a short takeoff and landing aeroplane used by the RMAF during the Emergency period to fly into very short jungle airstrips, to supply jungle forts or transport personnel in and out of those forts.

It was just as well that Robert left the RMAF early, as the Single Pioneer eventually proved to be a flying coffin for the RMAF in the same manner that the jet fighter, the F-104 Starfigher, proved to be so for the Luftwaffe.

The Single Pioneer’s wing spar was breaking up in flight but unfortunately both the RMAF and RAF (which also used the same plane) weren't aware of the structural defect.

A number of RMAF pilots died when that happened. After flying out, those pilots didn’t return, ever.

Initially the crashes were unexplained, with planes disappearing while flying over deep almost impenetrable jungle. The air force could only classify the missing flights, which obviously had crashed somewhere along or nearby their routes, as accidents due to unknown causes. The term the air force couldn't used was 'missing due to mysterious circumstances'.

It was much later when a crash in a more accessible location showed that part of the aeroplane's wing was some distance behind the wreck that the RMAF realized the cause of the accident.

It's possible that Robert survived into his 60’s because he left the Single Pioneer squadron and the RMAF for good. But it’s sad that we have lost him now, though his suffering has finally ceased.

Vale Robert, requiescat in pace.

1 comment:

  1. Rest in Peace Robert,

    An old aquaintance of twenty over years. Be strong Jane and regards to your family too.

    I still remember his display of the very propeller of the plane at his living room of his house.

    Donald G. H Tan and family