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S'pore Airshow stages its largest edition ever

Show opens tomorrow with 1,000 exhibitors from nearly 50 countries

Poised for takeoff: Over 250 official delegations and some 45,000 to 50,000 trade visitors are expected at the Singapore Airshow (above). - PHOTO: AFP

[SINGAPORE] The Singapore Airshow returns this week in its largest edition yet with a bigger list of companies, all seeking to snare a piece of the pie in one of the industry's fastest growing regions.

Over 1,000 exhibitors from nearly 50 countries will participate at the Singapore Airshow - up from 900 companies in 2012 - which attracts high-ranking government officials and top management of international companies. This includes 60 per cent of the world's top aerospace firms, while 30 per cent of the companies participating are new to the Singapore Airshow altogether.

The 40,000 square metres of indoor exhibition space and 100,000 sq m of outdoor display area at Changi Exhibition Centre were sold out ahead of the event, with four companies - including ST Engineering and Rolls Royce - building double-storey exhibition booths indoors to boost their size.

The Singapore Airshow (Feb 11-16) attracts more delegations than any other airshow worldwide, with over 250 official delegations and some 45,000 to 50,000 trade visitors expected this year.

"Singapore Airshow is one of the few multi-faceted events in the region that combine both military and commercial aviation in one strategic location," said Jimmy Lau, managing director of organiser Experia Events. "It consistently attracts corporate budgets which draw high-level corporate individuals and quality visitors."

Little wonder, since the International Air Transport Association (Iata) expects that traffic within the Asia-Pacific will represent 31.7 per cent of passengers worldwide by 2017, while Boeing projects the number of planes in the region will nearly triple to 14,750 by 2032.

The biennial event will also see its biggest contingent from the US thus far, consisting of US government officials as well as over 160 US firms.

"It really is the convergence of opportunities here in the region and how our companies have been playing in this region for decades," said United States ambassador to Singapore, Kirk Wagar at a press briefing yesterday morning.

At the same time, Asia's largest airshow comes hot on the heels of the Dubai Airshow in November, where the US$200 billion or so order tally was largely bankrolled by cash-rich Gulf carriers inking blockbuster deals for high-value aircraft, including Boeing's 777X.

But Mr Lau stressed that the Singapore Airshow is not "chasing numbers".

He added: "The Middle East starts from a very low base. Asia Pacific has 5,000 aircraft already, with two dozen or more airlines operating here. It's almost a mature market and it's a replacement market. They acquire new aircraft (which are) very tactical to the routes they're going. In the Middle East, they've found the need to quickly boost their connectivity."

Mr Lau had said previously that orders at the Singapore Airshow 2014 are unlikely to match the US$31 billion or so seen in 2012, which was largely lifted by a whopping US$22 billion deal that Indonesia's Lion Air signed with Boeing.

Some 90 commercial, military and executive aircraft will be on display this week, including Boeing's Dreamliner and Airbus' new wide-body A350 - which launch customer Qatar Airways will receive in 4Q 14 - as the world's two biggest planemakers race to secure new orders from fast-growing regional carriers. One of Airbus' most notable product launches since the double-decker A380, the twin-engine A350 will be on static display from Feb 11-12 and will also take part in a flying display.

According to Flightglobal's advisory service Ascend, Garuda and state-carrier Philippine Airlines are mulling over the A350 and B787 as they look to phase out the Airbus A330, while Malaysia Airlines may replace some B777-200ERs.

Singapore's Defence Ministry had said last month that it was still in talks with the US with regard to a potential deal to upgrade its fleet of 60 F-16 fighter jets, some of which have been in service for over 15 years.

Meanwhile, reports suggest Boeing could announce a US$3.9 billion order for 38 single-aisle B737-MAX planes from India's SpiceJet at the Singapore Airshow, while Thailand's Nok Airlines is also expected to ink a deal for the US planemaker's popular B737-MAX model. Vietnam's budget carrier VietJetAir is reportedly close to confirming part of a US$9 billion order for up to 92 Airbus planes.

Executive jets - such as Bombardier's Challenger 605 - and military aircraft, such as Boeing's AH-6i helicopter, will also be on display.

Frost & Sullivan's director of aerospace and defence practice (Asia Pacific) Subhranshu Sekhar Das notes that while all eyes are typically glued to the dollar value attached to the overall haul sealed at airshows, the event also serves other equally important purposes such as bringing together aviation firms, organisations and key decision-makers to discuss appropriate policies for the region and the broader industry.

This could include the ongoing march towards carbon neutral growth, efforts to beef up infrastructure in under-developed markets or establishing open skies agreements.

Over the years, the Singapore Airshow has evolved by better optimising infrastructure, raising the quality of the conferences centred around the event and delivering an

ever-expanding list of high-calibre delegates and exhibitors, Mr Das pointed out.

Conferences taking place today include the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit and the Asia Pacific Security Conference. These will feature ministers and prominent industry stalwarts such as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) council president Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, Iata chief Tony Tyler and Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission.

Peripheral activities being held at Seletar Aerospace Park in conjunction with the Airshow include the launches of Pratt & Whitney's new centre for engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and Airbus and Satair's service centre as well as the opening of Bombardier's first wholly-owned service centre in the region.