'The Courage to Dream – The Making of the Changi Airport Story’: A Tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Contributions to Singapore’s Air Hub

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Journey through time in this immersive exhibition and discover untold stories about the founding of Changi Airport, including the values underpinning its success.

Venue: Jewel Changi Airport, Cloud9 Piazza
Dates: 16 - 30 Sep 2023
Admission: Free

Step into ‘The Courage to Dream – The Making of the Changi Airport Story’, an LKY100 commemorative exhibition to be held at Jewel Changi Airport. Featuring six interactive zones, the immersive walkthrough exhibition commemorates the visionary leadership, boldness and conviction of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It also showcases how Mr Lee and his team of leaders made Changi Airport possible and paved the way for its success. 

Through untold stories illustrated in engaging displays, with rarely seen archival content, visitors can embark on a nostalgic voyage through time from the 1970s to present day, and even get a glimpse of the exciting future of aviation. The exhibition will be open to the public for free from 16 to 30 September at Cloud9 Piazza, Level 5 of Jewel Changi Airport. Thereafter, the exhibition will be moved to another location within the airport.

The beginning of Changi Airport (1960s to 2000s)

With four zones depicting the period between 1960s and 2000s, visitors can travel back in time to witness the early days of Singapore's aviation history. The journey begins in Chapter 1: Growing Pains. Here, visitors will learn about the history and growth of Paya Lebar Airport in the early 1970s.  Look out for the historical moment of the first-ever mention of Changi, featuring the actual audio clip of Mr Lee, then Prime Minister, speaking to a crowd in Katong about a possible move of the airport from Paya Lebar to Changi.

In Chapter 2: Dreams are Made of Struggles, visitors learn that the transition was far from straightforward. The pace of air traffic growth constituted an urgent need for quick expansion, which pointed to Paya Lebar as the more immediate and feasible solution. Follow the twists and turns in the first half of the 1970s, as Mr Lee and his team of leaders struggled with the difficult decision of the move, which involved weighing various significant trade-offs, including impact to surroundings, potential for expansion, time pressure and cost. Through story exhibits and interactive digital activities, visitors can understand each of these considerations and relive the dilemma that Mr Lee then faced.



In Chapter 4: Showtime: The Making of Changi Airport, visitors can watch a short film on the creation of Changi Airport, which features rarely seen archival documentary footage of the construction of Terminal 1 and first-hand sharing from pioneering airport leaders on Mr Lee’s vision and leadership. Key development milestones of Terminal 1 are also chronicled through a series of archival photographs, leading up to the momentous opening of Changi Airport on 1 July 1981, heralding the dawn of a new era in aviation history.

Putting Changi Airport on the world map (2000s to present day)

In Chapter 5: The Pursuit of Excellence, enjoy anecdote-filled stories of how Mr Lee and the airport’s founding leaders drove the successful establishment of Changi as a vibrant air hub and its growth to the world’s most awarded airport.

Visitors can see the early master plan of Changi Airport in 1981 and witness its transformation through the decades, evolving from a single terminal to a world-class aviation hub with multiple terminals. The then-Prime Minister had set exacting standards for Changi Airport, taking a personal and deep interest in matters including greening the airport, cleanliness of its toilets, eradicating queues and the securing of city links. This dedication to excellence, attention to detail, and emphasis on growing the air hub continue to guide the management of Changi Airport today.

Mr Lee’s refrain for Changi to never rest on its laurels has also driven a constant spirit of innovation, manifested in new initiatives to enhance the air hub’s competitiveness, including the opening of Jewel Changi Airport in 2019.

The future of aviation (beyond 2023)

Looking ahead to the future, Chapter 6: Building on the Dream illustrates how the decisions made decades ago are today instrumental to the next chapter of Changi Airport. The foresight and decisiveness to invest in a second massive and complex land reclamation effort in the 1990s had laid the foundation for today's monumental undertaking – the Changi East development, which includes a new Terminal 5.

Visit ‘The Courage to Dream’ website for more information.


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This article is prepared by

Jiarong Yu
Daddy to 2 adorable little ones. Misses them the moment they are not around, regrets missing them the moment they are around.

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