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VIRUS OUTBREAK

Singapore Airshow hit by virus fears as some 70 companies pull out

Singapore

MORE than 70 participating companies including US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin have pulled out of the Singapore Airshow over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, but organisers insisted on Sunday that Asia's biggest aviation event would still go ahead.

Notwithstanding the pullout, over 930 companies will still be participating at the biennial event, which begins on Tuesday. This is down from the original projection of more than 1,000 participating companies, provided by the organiser Experia Events back in December 2019.

Based on the latest figures from Experia Events on Sunday, some 45,000 trade attendees from 140 countries are expected - lower than the over-55,000 from 150 countries projected last December. The 2018 event drew 54,000 trade attendees.

It also attracted 80,000 public visitors over two days. Experia Events said on Sunday that it expects ticket sales (to public visitors) for this year's event to be "significantly less than half" compared with the one in 2018 - given that public attendance will be controlled as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Precautionary measures - including a major reduction in public attendance and temperature screenings - have been imposed ahead of the start of the event. Organisers were also encouraging attendees to greet each other by bowing or waving instead of shaking hands.

Leck Chet Lam, the managing director of organiser Experia Events, who confirmed that more than 70 companies have decided not to participate, nervertheless said that there was "still strong presence" at the show.

The biggest names in aerospace participate in the Singapore Airshow, and often massive deals - such as aircraft orders from major carriers - are announced at the event.

The outbreak, which has killed more than 800 people and infected tens of thousands across China, has spread to nearly more than two dozen other countries and sparked global concern. Many nations, including Singapore, have barred travellers who had been to China recently from entering or transiting through its territory to counter the spread of the virus. Despite that ban, the Chinese air force will take part in the air show for the first time. The acrobatic team will participate in the flight displays - the highlight of the biennial event - but more than 10 Chinese companies have withdrawn.

On Friday, Singapore upgraded its disease alert to the second-highest level on its four-point system. Lockheed Martin and plane maker De Havilland, pulled out after the alert level was raised.

Canada's Bombardier, Gulfstream and Textron Aviation (both from the US) had already withdrawn earlier.

The South Korean air force's aerobatics team had pulled out of the Singapore Airshow earlier because of the virus outbreak.

Also announced earlier is that the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit (SAALS) 2020, a component of the Airshow programme involving 300 aviation leaders, will not take place this year.

Companies that will still be participating at the Airshow include: ATR, Airbus, Boeing, Israel Aerospace Industries, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, ST Engineering and Thales. Boeing said on Sunday that the ecoDemonstrator airplane will not be at the show "for various reasons"; however, it remains committed to the Singapore Airshow and will be an active participant. AFP

With additional reporting by The Business Times

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