Aviation sector set for greater heights

Copter charm: An Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) Z-10ME attack helicopter displayed at the Singapore Airshow at Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore. — Reuters

As the bustling trade portion of the first fully post-pandemic Singapore Airshow wound down yesterday, exhibitors and delegates said they were optimistic for the aviation industry despite suppliers’ struggles to keep up with the rebound in travel demand.

Before the show, organisers predicted that about 50,000 people would attend the four trade days of the show, nearly four times as many than in 2022, when foreign visitors required daily rapid antigen tests for Covid-19, and nearly as many as the 54,000 who visited in 2018.

The 2020 edition was rocked by last-minute cancellations as the virus spread around the world.

Outside Asia’s largest air show, transportation issues snarled arrivals and departures, especially during the first days.

On Tuesday, lines for free shuttle buses to the Expo public transportation hub led to waits as long as three hours in humid temperatures above 30ºC and taxis to the city cost as much as three times the usual fare.

The situation was bad enough to become a talking point, with local newspaper the Straits Times running a lengthy story headlined: “’Worst transport experience’: Crawling traffic, long waits for rides frustrate Singapore Airshow visitors”.

Leck Chet Lam, managing director of show organiser Experia, said the company was aware of the transportation issues and attributed them to “higher attendance than in previous editions”.

In the air-conditioned display space, commercial exhibitors hawked planes, drones, surveillance technology, services and equipment.

The displays attracted buyers as well as simple curiosity, with the Korea Aerospace Industries booth drawing a line on Wednesday for attendees to get pilots’ autographs and pose for selfies.

More than 1,000 companies from 50 countries participated in this year’s show, organisers said, on both the commercial and defence sides.

Russian companies did not participate against the background of the war in Ukraine but Israeli companies Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which dropped out of the Dubai Airshow in November amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, attended.

“The general mood is extremely positive but also very demanding,” said Dennis Kohr, head of corporate sales Asia-Pacific for aircraft maintenance provider Lufthansa Technik Group.

“It’s the first airshow after the pandemic; there is not only a huge demand for air travel, but also huge demand for MRO services,” he added, referring to maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Delegates stepped into the tropical heat for about an hour’s worth of aerial displays each day, including demonstration flights by air force teams from Singapore, Korea and India, among other countries, and a flyby by the C919, made by China’s Comac.

Comac was the first company to announce orders at the show, flagging a deal with Tibet Airlines for 40 C919 single-aisle planes and 10 ARJ21 regional jets, plus 6 ARJ21s for China’s Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Group.

Shortly afterward, Royal Brunei Airlines said it was ordering four Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Airbus announced an order for five A350 freighters and three A330neo widebody passenger jets from Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines.

Airbus also had a provisional deal with Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet for 20 A330neo wide-body airliners.

Sustainability was a focus of the show, with the Singapore government announcing a green jet fuel mandate to be funded by a levy on travellers and air show organisers stressing the importance of protecting the environment, but the industry showed divides over how to achieve its goal of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050. — Reuters

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