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Flight path charted for Singapore's aviation future

On the radar are better jobs, improved productivity and an even more competitive Changi Airport

Mr Ng (left) and CAAS director- general Kevin Shum (right) touring the Air Transport ITM showcase at the CAAS Aviation Community Reception 2017.


A ROADMAP to chart the future of Singapore's aviation sector was revealed on Thursday, outlining efforts to create better jobs, boost productivity and improve Changi Airport's competitiveness.

Key objectives under the Air Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM) include racking up real value-added growth of 16 per cent from 2015 to 2020, beefing up productivity by 3-4 per cent annually as well as creating over 8,000 new, good jobs in the sector by 2025.

This comes as other countries - including those in the region - are expanding their airports in a bid to become leading air hubs, while their airlines are also growing aggressively.

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"We want to transform the sector, not only to meet these challenges but to do even better," said Ng Chee Meng, Second Minister for Transport, at the Aviation Community Reception on Thursday evening. "We want to improve our sector's competitiveness and Changi's service standards, and grow our real value-add from about S$7 billion today by another S$1 billion by 2020."

The ambitious plan also aims to redesign or create 8,000 good jobs between now and 2025, translating to more jobs for professionals, technicians and cabin crew.

And with Singapore facing land and labour constraints, a business-as-usual approch to transforming the sector isn't feasible.

"Overall, we want to increase productivity by about 40 per cent between now and 2025. This is a very challenging target we are setting ourselves, as productivity in the sector has historically grown at lower rates," said Mr Ng. "But we believe that we need to be ambitious if we want to stay ahead."

Plans are also underway to make Changi Airport "smarter", by leveraging innovative solutions and state-of-the-art technology to improve productivity. For instance, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has issued a tender to pilot a Smart Tower for remote air traffic control operations, with a digitised real-time view of the aerodrome from digital camera systems. This would give air traffic controllers access to advanced surveillance and information tools.

Meanwhile, given the tight labour market, ST Dynamics is developing an automated system to dock aerobridges to aircraft. The system, which will use precision lasers and cameras with smart algorithms, can also be used under adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain.

Industry players are encouraged to look at new ways of doing business. SIA Engineering Company has started using 3D printing for aircraft parts to be used for repairs and maintenance, reducing the time taken and the amount of storage space required. It also allows for quicker turnaround of aircraft servicing. In January this year, SIAEC installed the first batch of 3D printed parts onto an A380 aircraft.

Mr Ng also highlighted that there will be opportunities for local companies - including small and medium enterprises - to co-develop and export locally-made aviation products.

Another major thrust of the Air Transport ITM is skills upgrading so that employees can acquire the skills needed to remain relevant as jobs and job scopes evolve. For example, the professional conversion programme (PCP) will help mid-career entrants ease into the air transport sector. In partnership with Workforce Singapore, the CAAS has introduced the PCP for ground operations officer. PCPs for other roles, such as station managers and airline officers, will be introduced progressively.

At the undergraduate level, CAAS is planning to tie up with a university to develop the curriculum for a degree in air transport to help meet the sector's manpower needs.

The Air Transport ITM was developed by the Air Transport Industry Tripartite Committee (ITC), comprising representatives from organisations such as CAAS, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), SIA, Changi Airport Group (CAG), Jestar Asia and dnata. The ITC will also oversee the implementation of the roadmap.

Between the government and industry players such as CAG, SIA and Sats, some S$500 million is already being channelled towards rolling out a number of projects over the next three years.

Chief executive of CAG, Lee Seow Hiang, highlighted that the airport operator is boosting efforts to drive productivity and innovation at the airport as the air hub grows.

"We will continue to leverage new technologies and work with partners to bring onboard solutions that will prepare Changi for future growth and transformation," he said.

"The Air Transport ITM is a collective effort by sectoral tripartite partners to bring about better job opportunities for our workers and build a sustainable pipeline of workers to keep our air hub competitive," said Ong Hwee Liang, chairman of the NTUC aerospace and aviation cluster.

"It is imperative that the tripartite partners work closely to communicate these strategic plans to every worker, as well as help them upgrade and upskill to prepare for the new technologies and skillsets needed."