On Friday June 14, members of Taiping-based non-governmental organisations (NGO) organised a rally to protest against the sale of part of Taiping Aerodrome, the first airport in the Federated Malay States.
The state government, through MB Incorporated, had sold some 40 acres of the property to a developer disregarding the importance of its heritage and historical value as contributing factors for Taiping to be recognised as a heritage city.
The NGOs, consisting of Kelab Cintai Taiping, Taiping Heritage Society, Taiping Tourism Association, Warisan Anak-Anak Kg Pinang, Persatuan Penduduk Taman Saujana Jaya and Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Perak, hoped to see this piece of real estate be returned to its original status.
The Taiping Aerodrome was the first aerodrome built in Malaya in early 1929 during the era of the British Administration and it was used to shuttle British VIPs around the country.
American woman pilot Amelia Mary Earhart, made a refuelling stop at Taiping Aerodrome on June 7, 1937 before continuing her journey to Singapore and then to New Guinea in her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. She was last seen alive on July 2, 1937 in New Guinea. She and her plane were never discovered till this day.
President Soekarno of Indonesia and his deputy, Mohammad Hatta, landed at the aerodrome on August 12, 1945 to meet Dr Burhanuddin Helmi and Ibrahim Yaacob who were leaders of Kesatuan Rakyat Indonesia Semenanjung. They discussed the possibility of uniting Malaya and Indonesia before they continued their journey to Tokyo.
Malayan Airways and Berjaya Airways had at one time used the facility for its commercial flights.
When the British Administration ended, the significance of Taiping Aerodrome diminished. Bigger and more sophisticated airports were built in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru and in other States. Nevertheless, Taiping Aerodrome was and is still relevant to the local residents. The army, police and firefighters still use it for their trainings – parachuting, logistics dispatch and related aspects.
Events such as hot-air balloon, flying club training, paragliding and remote control planes have been held there in the past. Recreational activities such as kite flying, jogging, aerobic exercises, community games and archery are being organized at the site. The land provides space for large-scale events, either at state, national or even International level.
More recently, one of the victims of the ill-fated MH17 flight which was shot down over Ukraine was flown to his hometown Taiping via the aerodrome.
It is, therefore, important to retain the Taiping Aerodrome as it can be used as a staging point in times of disaster or an emergency.
Residents of Taiping hope the state government will consider the following options:
- The land (40 acres) already sold be returned to its original status.
- An alternative site be given to the developer as a replacement.
- The aerodrome be registered as a heritage site.
Hj Robert Rizal Abdullah