Singapore Air Show

Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park is booming

 - February 14, 2012, 12:10 AM
Seletar Aerospace Park

Conversion of the old Seletar airfield (situated on the north of the island, about 25 minutes drive from Changi) into a modern aerospace complex continues here in Singapore. Phase two of the government-sponsored redevelopment is nearly finished, and four companies that have moved into new facilities are showing them off to airshow visitors and local guests this week.

The new Rolls-Royce aero engine factory is the “signature” facility here, dominating the southern end of the airfield. The JTC Corp. (Booth G39) wants to attract more manufacturing and assembly companies. But Celine Yeo, manager of aerospace development for JTC, said the Seletar Aerospace Park (SAP) is also designed for companies specializing in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), business aviation, training and R&D.

JTC is the government’s industrial real estate developer. It is responsible for no fewer than 43 industrial parks that house 5,600 companies. These parks include Changi North and Loyang, where some major multinational aerospace companies have settled (see box). It leases land to companies that want to purpose-build, and also offers ready-built facilities.

Major Revamp

With no more land available at either Changi or Loyang, JTC began upgrading sleepy Seletar in 2007. The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) based training and transport aircraft here until they were relocated to Australia and Paya Lebar airbase, respectively. ST Aerospace then took over the RSAF hangars on the West side of the airfield and is currently doing Boeing 757 passenger-to-freighter conversions here. Meanwhile, MRO and FBO companies such as Fokker Services Asia, Hawker Pacific and Jet Aviation moved into other hangars, some of them dating back to the 1930s.

In Phases 1 and 2 of the redevelopment, JTC has opened up the airfield with a three-lane dual-carriageway perimeter road with direct access to the Tampines Expressway; done drainage works; and built a 66-kv electricity generation plant–the largest such facility by capacity in Singapore.

Fokker and Hawker Pacific have moved from their old hangars in the East Camp into brand-new facilities on the West side. Another recently completed facility houses EADS, which has moved the existing Eurocopter MRO facility from Loyang and added the local branch of its R&D shop–the Innovation Works–from the Singapore Science Park. Eurocopter is also adding simulators there.

Bell Helicopter is also moving its overhaul facility from Loyang and will share a building now being built with fellow Textron company Cessna Aircraft. Work has also started on a new building for Pratt & Whitney, which is expanding in Singapore; it is retaining its site at Loyang.

These companies have mostly signed 30-year leases with JTC and paid their own construction costs. However, Yeo told AIN that some foreign companies prefer to employ a third-party developer and do a sale-and-leaseback deal that keeps the asset off their balance sheet. JTC charges rent by the month or will negotiate an upfront payment discount covering 10 years or longer.

JTC itself has built eight standard factory units suitable for MRO or component manufacturing. Situated on the southern side of the airfield, these 17,200- to 38,750-sq-ft units do not have direct access to the airfield. Yeo said they are suitable for companies wanting to quickly start operations here; she promised to announce their first tenants at the show this week.

JTC has also completed a Business Aviation Complex on the West side. This is a Singapore-style, seven-story flatted factory for light industrial users. The 38 units range in size from 474- to 2,150-sq-ft. They are already 80 percent occupied, according to Yeo. Also in this area is Seletar’s small passenger terminal, through which all business aircraft passengers must now pass for immigration and security screening. Hawker Pacific, Jet Aviation and Universal Aviation offer FBO services at Seletar. Jet Aviation has signed a 30-year lease to retain its existing hangar and facilities near the passenger terminal.

Meanwhile, on the East side, JTC has taken the initiative to put some small, general aviation companies together in a hangar-cum-training facility that has airside access. They include MAJ Aviation, which runs the Singapore Flying College and Youth Flying Club, and the Air Transport Training Centre.

JTC is responsible for about half, or 400 acres, of the Seletar site. The other half is the airfield itself, which is managed by the Changi Airport Group, a part of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. It is extending the runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet in two stages; adding an ILS to Runway 03 and approach lighting to the other end. A new control tower and fire station has just been commissioned.

Mixed Views

Not everyone is impressed with developments at Seletar. After operating there for seven years, charter operator Executive Jets Asia is moving to the rival Senai Aviation Park at neighboring Malaysia’s nearest airport in Johor. EJA chief executive Prithpal Singh told local media last year that rental, construction and operating costs there were about half of the total at Seletar. EJA is spending $13 million on a 70,000-sq-ft hangar at Senai, where it “will compete very well against the MROs in Singapore, which have huge costs and space constraints,” he added.

Malaysia had offered his company a five-year tax holiday. C&A Aviation, another Seletar tenant that overhauls engines, is also moving to Senai. Malaysia is also developing a similar aviation park at Subang, the former international airport for Kuala Lumpur.

In response, Yeo of JTC told AIN that Singapore’s advantages include a well-developed infrastructure, a strong engineering skills base and a workforce that is proficient in English. Singapore also offers foreign industrial investors some tax breaks.

JTC is now forging ahead with the third phase of the SAP. This is a three-year project to demolish and redevelop the old East Camp, which will also involve claiming some land from an adjacent army camp. More new hangars and factories are planned on the 170-acre site.