THE Singapore Airshow 2016 (Feb 16-21) is back this week as the global economy slows down. But industry heavy-hitters, senior government officials and military chiefs from around the world continue to show up at Asia's largest airshow, signalling their confidence that long-term growth remains robust for one of the fastest-growing aviation markets, organiser Experia Events said.
Over 1,000 companies from some 50 countries and regions - on par with the 2014 event - will be at the fifth edition of the biennial Singapore Airshow, which features both commercial and military aviation. Of these, three-quarters are returning exhibitors, including 65 of the world's top 100 aerospace companies.
France, the feature country this year, will have its biggest presence with more than 50 participating companies.
The new exhibitors include local and foreign firms such as Aviage Systems, BSB Aviation, CWT Defence Services, the Eurasia Partnership of Aerospace Cluster, and Turkey-based Roketsan.
Experia Events' managing director Leck Chet Lam said: "The strong support from new and returning exhibitors in 2016 demonstrates that the Singapore Airshow will continue to be the platform of choice and a must-attend event for exhibitors to reach out to key stakeholders and conclude new deals. We are looking forward to a stronger and more exciting edition in 2016."
Singapore's warm relations with many countries also make it an ideal location for high-level discussions on emerging trends and industry challenges, pointed out Subhranshu Sekhar Das, vice-president (aerospace & defence) at Frost & Sullivan.
The 2014 Singapore Airshow - which contributed over S$319 million in direct spending to the local economy - saw more than 1,000 high-level meetings take place between exhibitors and 274 official delegations from 76 markets. Similar numbers are expected this year.
This year, a new zone has been earmarked during the trade days to showcase emerging and innovative technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles, 3-D printing and aircraft-related IT.
While the Singapore Airshow doesn't typically net the huge order books chalked up at airshows in Europe and Dubai - February is too close to the year-end book closure for planemakers - there is chatter that certain deals could be inked this week. Among them are an announcement for six wide-body aircraft by Philippine Airlines as well as an order for turboprops from Europe-based planemaker ATR for a leasing company.
"We hope to see a similar result as what was achieved at the Singapore Airshow 2014, where major contracts worth some US$32 billion were announced for Airbus, Embraer, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier (and) ST Engineering, to name a few," said Mr Leck.
Centre for Aviation (CAPA) analyst Brendan Sobie doesn't expect "eye-popping" orders at the Singapore Airshow, but reckons there could be some orders from Asian airlines and leasing companies.
"For South-east Asia, we have seen so many orders over the last several years that it is the time in the cycle to take a hiatus generally from more large-scale orders," he said. "With more than 1,500 orders from South-east Asia airlines, there is plenty already in the pipeline covering both replacement (aircraft) and growth."
Frost & Sullivan's Mr Das reckons that the plunge in jet fuel prices might even encourage some carriers to hang on to existing aircraft longer as opposed to trading them in for new, more fuel-efficient planes.
Asia is expected to overtake North America in having the world's largest fleet by 2034, highlighting the need for investment, the infrastructure as well as the services to support growth in this part of the world.
And as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) continue to set up base in the region to cater to demand, the Economic Development Board (EDB) is keen to build an aerospace eco-system in Singapore that will be able to design, engineer, produce as well as deliver after-market services for key aircraft programmes. Singapore already holds a 10 per cent share of the global maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry.
"By 2040, we envision that Singapore will have a comprehensive manufacturing and after-market presence from leading aerospace OEMs as well as home-grown enterprises who are able to service and supply to major aircraft programmes," said Tan Kong Hwee, EDB's director (transport engineering), speaking at a press conference on Sunday morning. "We would like to see much more substantial participation from our local enterprises in this industry."
Meanwhile, aircraft on display at this year's airshow include the F-16C from the Singapore Air Force, two F-22 stealth fighters from the US Air Force, the military transport aircraft A400M, a US Navy P-8A Poseidon, as well as - for the first time - the Airbus H1454 and the Bell 505 helicopters. Luxury executive jets from Bombardier, Embraer and Gulfstream will also be on display, such as the G650ER.
Conferences taking place include the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit, which has lined up eminent speakers such as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, International Civil Aviation Organization council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, International Air Transport Association chief Tony Tyler and Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport.
Peripheral activities held in conjunction with the airshow include the launches of Pratt & Whitney's first manufacturing facility at Seletar Aerospace Park and Singapore Aero Engine Services' expanded facility in Loyang.
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