rganizers of the biennial Asian Aerospace event claim that it is “the world’s second most influential airshow.” This is a big claim, since it stands or falls on the contention that either the self-evidently larger Paris or Farnborough shows are less important than the Singapore event. But be that as it may, there can be no disputing the stature of Asian Aerospace in the Asia/Pacific region, and the evidence from the 2004 show (held February 24 to 29) strongly suggested that this beleaguered part of the global economy is now back on its feet, despite the best efforts of the avian flu virus to drag it back into the mire created by last year’s severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
According to show organizer Reed Exhibitions, the four trade-only days of Asian Aerospace 2004 generated $3.52 billion worth of deals. Again, this seems like an inflated claim, since–as is now almost the norm on the post-9/11 airshow circuit–there were no blockbuster airliner sales announcements. According to computations done by AIN, the reported grand total can have been achieved only by factoring in every cent of every optional element contained in the business transactions announced at the show, including all support deals. In fact, AA’04 organizers acknowledged that the sales tally included all business transactions announced by companies during the show.
The show attracted 758 exhibitors from 33 countries, and fully 10 percent of these firms were first-timers at Asian Aerospace. According to preliminary estimates, almost 24,000 trade visitors came through the gates at the Changi Exhibition Center. Most important, a record 148 official military and civil delegations came to the show from no less than 47 nations.
The event’s rigorous security measures were widely praised by attendees for both their thoroughness and efficiency. For example, all vehicles were required to pass over a new system that automatically scanned their undersides for explosives, while police searched inside.
Pilotless Aircraft Fly in Show Display
But the greatest novelty at Asian Aerospace 2004 was provided by an entirely uninhabited vehicle. For the first time ever, an unmanned air vehicle was presented in an airshow flying display in the shape of the Heron/Eagle drone jointly developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and European Aeronautics Defence & Space (EADS) Co.
The new UAV was operated by a pair of “pilots” from a hangar on the far side of Singapore Changi Airport and safely completed several passes in each day’s display before landing on one of the main runways and then taxied to a remote stand.
The military agenda at this year’s Asian Aerospace show was dominated by the ongoing contest to supply the Republic of Singapore Air Force with a new-generation fighter. The final three contenders–Boeing’s F-15 Strike Eagle, Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon–were due to be formally tendered before the end of March with the ultimate decision expected early next year.
Only the F-15 and the Rafale were featured in the AA’04 flying display, with the Typhoon present only in mockup form. The Eurofighter consortium insisted that the Typhoon will be fitted with the necessary in-flight refueling probes in time to be flown to Singapore in the next few months for the required in-country evaluation.
In the air-transport arena, expectations that Boeing might be in a position to announce launch customers for its proposed 7E7 Dreamliner twinjet were not fulfilled. The U.S. airframer has indicated that Asia/Pacific carriers are a key potential customer base for the new long-haul transport.
Signals given at Boeing Commercial Airplane’s Singapore press conference suggest that the program’s full launch may now not be anticipated until at least the third quarter of this year. One significant bit of 7E7 news that did creep out during the show was that the new airliner is expected to sell for around the list price of the existing 767-300ER–between $115 million and $127.5 million.
AA’04 was something of a baby shower heralding the birth of the Asia/Pacific region’s low-cost carrier sector. As if to mark the occasion, Air Deccan–India’s first low- fare operator–and Singapore-based Valuair each ordered a pair of new Airbus A320s during the show. Air Deccan also took options on two more of the narrowbodies and said it will lease three used and two new A320s from Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise. Valuair will also lease another pair of A320s from the same source.
On the final trade day of AA’04, Singapore Airlines (SIA) declared that it had advised both Boeing and Airbus of its intention to place new airliner orders later this year “for a range of aircraft to cater for fleet renewal, as well as future growth needs.” The fact that the local flag carrier did not feel willing or able to bring forward these purchases to gilt-edge Singapore’s airshow was seemingly indicative of the cautious airline recovery in the region. SIA is already committed to introducing the first Airbus A380 super-large airliner in 2006. Conceivably, it could be mulling the 7E7 as a possible replacement for some of its 30 Boeing 747-400s.
More Turboprops Head Down Under
Bombardier was the recipient of a three-ship order from Australian flag carrier Qantas for its 50-seat Q300 twin turboprop. These will join the fleet of its regional operation, QantasLink, for which it previously ordered six of the type in December. The deal struck at AA’04 marked the conversion of three options placed at that time.
Also during the show, the Canadian airframer confirmed that it is taking a fresh look at the market for new 100- to 130-seat regional jets– effectively dusting down the provisional BRJ-X program that it shelved a few years ago. To give the project fresh impetus, Bombardier has appointed former Boeing executive Gary Scott to the specially created position of head of new commercial aircraft program.
Bombardier exhibited a 70-seat Q400 turboprop at Asian Aerospace. Following the show, the twin turboprop embarked on a 36,000-mile sales tour that was set to take in five Asia/Pacific countries, two Middle Eastern states and eight countries in Europe.
For the just-certified Embraer 170 regional jet, the Singapore show was the springboard for a two-month, 26-city sales demonstration tour of the Asia/Pacific region. The 70-seater recently received final type certification approvals with U.S., European and Brazilian authorities.
Embraer also came to Asian Aerospace looking to sign customers for the 50-seat ERJ-145s that are now being assembled in China through its joint venture with Harbin Aircraft and Hafei Aviation. The Chinese operation was created in January last year, but the partners then took until this past February to secure a launch order for six aircraft from China Southern Airlines.
According to Embraer executive vice president Horacio Forjaz, the airframer is not discouraged by the apparent slow response of the Chinese marketplace to the indigenously produced regional jets, insisting that it had been required to start production in China to get around prohibitive import restrictions on foreign-built aircraft. “We have always taken a very conservative, solid approach to this program,” he told AIN, indicating that the Embraer business plan has the flexibility produce small numbers of aircraft in China and then increase output if demand increases.
The first of the Chinese-built ERJ-145s rolled out of the factory in Harbin on December 16. The local factory’s 160 employees now assemble kits supplied from Brazil and from suppliers such as Spain’s Gamesa (wings) and Belgium’s Sonaca (fuselage segments). Ultimately, Embraer may transfer the Brazilian manufacturing for the Chinese aircraft to Harbin, but the other airframe sections will still be supplied by the existing international partners.
But the Harbin-built ERJ-145 is the only Chinese RJ in town. At its Asian Aerospace exhibit, China’s AVIC I group was displaying a full-scale mockup of the new ARJ21 twinjet, for which it now holds 35 launch orders.
The so-called Asian Regional Jet family is to consist of the 70-seat ARJ-700 and 90-seat ARJ-900. Both will be powered by a pair of General Electric CF34-10A engines and will offer a range of between 1,200- and 2,000 nm, with a Mach 0.78 cruise speed. AVIC’s factories in Chengdu, Shanghai and Shenyang started cutting metal for the program in December.
AvCraft, the new owners of Fairchild Dornier’s 328JET program, exhibited at the Asian Aerospace show as part of a renewed campaign to boost sales of the 32-seat aircraft in the region. China, in particular, is viewed as a key sales target, and AvCraft managing director Wolfgang Walter said he was hopeful of securing a contract for five more 328s from existing customer Hainan Airlines.
Gulfstream Confirms G350 Program
Gulfstream Aerospace used the Singapore show to formally acknowledge that the new G350 will replace the G300, which is being phased out of production. The $27.5 million G350 will offer a cabin that is more than 40 feet long and can accommodate up to 16 passengers in three separate seating areas. Extra space has been provided for in the G350 design by reducing the amount of electronics storage space required aft of the cockpit bulkhead.
According to Gulfstream president Bryan Moss, the new model will provide “the most cabin volume, the best performance and the largest number of standard features compared with any aircraft in
its class.” The G350 cockpit will feature a PlaneView avionics suite, which Honeywell originally developed as an extension of its Primus Epic product line for the larger G550. This includes four 14-inch landscape LCDs, a fully synchronous triple flight management system and cursor controls to allow pilots to integrate the FMS with the navigation map.
Cessna introduced the new 2004 edition of its Citation X business jet at this year’s Singapore show. This was part of the manufacturer’s largest-ever presence at Asian Aerospace, and its static display line-up also included a 208B Grand Caravan with its new Oasis executive interior and a 182 Skylane. During the show, Cessna sold a Grand Caravan to Indonesian company PT Asi Pudjiastuti.
The new Citation X boasts features such as new seats with either two or four additional inches of hip room and Goodrich’s new articulating crew seats in the cockpit. The cabin also has new pin-in/pin-out attachment hardware to improve fit, finish and maintenance, as well as new LED lighting and controls for the air conditioning, entertainment system and window shades. The new standard will take effect from S/N 225 and will also include the Max-Viz enhanced vision system and Aircell satellite telephones.
The highlight of Bombardier’s business aviation presence at Asian Aerospace was the new Challenger 300. Against a 45-knot tailwind, the twinjet set a new speed record en route to the show, when it completed the first stage of its Pacific crossing from Santa Ana, Calif., to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 5 hours 22 minutes.
The Challenger 300 has strong roots in Asia, with more than 50 percent of the new model being built by companies in that part of the world. Its wing comes from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the aft fuselage from Aerospace Industry Development Corp. (AIDC) of Taiwan and the tailcone from Australia’s Hawker de Havilland. Bombardier also displayed a Global Express, along with a Learjet 45 and Learjet 60.
Eclipse Aviation made its Asian Aerospace debut, showing a model of the Eclipse 500 very light jet. The U.S. firm’s president and CEO, Vern Raburn, said he had also come to Singapore looking to expand its distribution and product support network into the Asia/Pacific region. Certification of the single-pilot, five-passenger Eclipse 500 is slated for early 2006.
Raytheon displayed a corporate shuttle version of a Beechcraft 1900D in Singapore. This reconfigured twin turboprop can seat up to 14 passengers with a pair of spacious club-four seats at the rear of the aircraft and a separate forward cabin area with six airliner-style seats. After the show, the airplane was being flown home on a sales demonstration tour that stopped in Tokyo, Alaska and western Canada. Through its Asia/Pacific distributor Hawker Pacific, the Raytheon exhibit also featured a Hawker 800XP and Premier I.
Ibis Aerospace was back at Asian Aerospace for the second time, looking to add to the 79 copies of the Ae270 Spirit turboprop single for which it holds orders. Taiwan’s AIDC is behind the Ibis joint venture with Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic, and it makes the aircraft’s wing as well as several fuselage components.
Executive charter operator Share- Jet announced a new marketing alliance with Hyatt International Hotels and Resorts. ShareJet is a joint venture between Japan’s Nissho Iwai Corp. and operating companies Aviation Concepts and RVSP, which are based on the Pacific island of Guam.
Dassault Falcon Jet introduced a new vice president for international sales during the Asian Aerospace show. Jean-Michel Jacob is replacing Jeff Habib in the role that spans both the Western hemisphere and the Far East. Habib is to become the Falcon sales director for South America.
In the general aviation sector of Asian Aerospace, Melbourne, Fla.-based Liberty Aerospace displayed a mockup of its new XL2 piston single. The aircraft recently completed U.S. Part 23 certification and is en route to achieving approval in both Europe and Asia.
India’s Dhruv Helo Takes Center Stage
Most foreigners have waited a long time to get a good look at India’s Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter. At this year’s Asian Aerospace show, they got to see not one but three of the new twins performing in the daily flying display as the Indian Air Force’s new Sarang aerobatic team. The Indians also provided a nine-strong fixed-wing display team using HJT-32 Kiran II jet trainers.
During the Singapore show, Bell Helicopter Textron and Korean Aerospace Industries announced that they are preparing to form a new joint venture to produce an improved IFR version of the Bell 427 light twin. The development program is expected to get under way before year-end.
Separately, Bell and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics signed a memorandum of understanding for the India-based company to start producing tail-rotor blades for Bell 206 helicopters. These deliveries will begin next year.
AgustaWestland announced at AA’04 that it delivered a new A109E Power to police in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. The helicopter has been fitted with a full suite of aerial surveillance equipment.
New Safety Avionics Unveiled
In the AA’04 avionics arena, Aviation Communications & Surveillance Systems (ACSS) unveiled a new line of safety equipment. This consisted of the Protector+, a common computing platform to host a range of surveillance functions, and the Dlink+ flight deck communications system.
The Protector+ uses a common processor and a common radio frequency to support any or all of the following functions: the terrain awareness warning system (TAWS), traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), mode-S secondary surveillance radar transponder and global positioning systems. It can be configured with TAWS+performance, an enhanced version of TAWS that uses the unique characteristics of the airplane to compute alerts and terrain display callouts, or the less sophisticated TAWS+, which bases its alerts on a standard climb gradient.
Another enhanced function, TCAS+, is billed by ACSS as the only third-generation TCAS II. It is available as a stand-alone line replaceable unit, as well as a Protector+ function and uses upgraded hardware and software to identify and enable pilots to avoid up to twice the number of aircraft within a 100-nm radius.
Dlink+ integrates a VHF datalink Mode 2 radio with aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) software, a communications management unit and a control display unit in a single box. The system is primarily targeted at the regional airline sector.