Singapore Show Should Reveal Realities of Asia’s Aerospace Destiny

 - January 31, 2012, 1:10 AM
Although the 2010 Singapore Airshow–held during the heart of the economic downturn–was a slow-news event, there was plenty of foot traffic in the Changi Exhibition Centre. This year’s event will be a bellwether for the region’s aerospace future.

This month’s Singapore Airshow (February 14 to 19) is on track to surpass the previous 2010 event, with more than 900 exhibitors booked to participate from some 50 countries. What many observers will be keen to gauge is the extent to which the Asia-Pacific’s air transport and defense markets are holding up in the face of continued Western decline. As important, the show will shed light on what progress the region’s emerging aerospace players–most notably China, Korea, Japan and India–are making in their efforts to ascend through the industry food chain.

According to Jimmy Lau, managing director of Singapore Airshow organizer Experia Events, the 2012 show will give positive answers to both of these questions. “Asia-Pacific is riding on the wave of growth as the region continues to lead in providing new opportunities in the aerospace and defense industry,” he told AIN. “Singapore Airshow, strategically positioned as a gateway to the thriving Asia-Pacific region, plays an important role as an effective springboard for industry players to experience the vibrancy of Singapore’s aviation industry and tap into the growing regional markets.”

That’s the theory and it is not without foundation. However, 2011 also revealed some slowing in what had seemed to be an irreversible growth trend in key markets such as China and India. The industry will be hoping that this represents no more than a moderate reaction from the more severe economic turbulence being experienced in the West.

For many, the Singapore show provides a good opportunity to engage with China’s two leading state-backed companies, namely China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (Catic) and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac). Industry media will be pressing for updates on China’s main civil aircraft programs, the ARJ21 regional jet and the C919 narrowbody. The Chinese industry has been far from transparent about how these programs are unfolding. Meanwhile, reports out of China suggested that the MA700 twin turboprop commuter being developed by Comac sibling Aviation Industry Corp. of China (Avic) may have suffered another development delay that could push back service entry from 2015 to 2016.

Some answers might emerge at the Singapore Airshow’s China Business Forum. This will feature presentations from industry leaders such as Avic’s executive vice president, Zhang Xin Guo. Once again, Experia is presenting business forums to address opportunities and challenges in Southeast Asia and India.

The air transport side of the biennial show will be bolstered by the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit, which will focus on hot issues such as balancing security requirements with growth and the airline industry’s continuing opposition to the European Union’s emissions trading scheme. The conference agenda pits Tony Tyler, the new director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, against European transport commissioner Siim Kallas. Also scheduled to speak are Roberto Kobeh Gonzales, president of the council of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the group’s president emeritus, Dr. Assad Kotaite, as well as Singapore’s transport minister, Lui Tuck Yew.

Defense Showcase

Apart from a debut appearance by Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor warplane, a highlight of the Singapore show’s defense profile will be the new Unmanned Systems Showcase. In addition to established Western leaders in the UAV field, this will also feature China’s Beijing Youtaishuncheng Development. The Asia Pacific Security Conference will once again be a focal point for defense debate at the Singapore show.

Japan is the latest aerospace nation to take one of the 21 national pavilions at the Singapore show, which will also feature a “Green Pavilion” highlighting environmental progress in aerospace. Major new exhibiting groups for the 2012 show include ATK, BBA Aviation, General Dynamics and Moog.

“The Singapore Airshow has established a track record as the event that brings together the largest number of top-level delegations from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” said Lau. “Our exhibitors and partners acknowledge that this is a key show in the global aerospace and aviation calendar that offers strategic networking opportunities and insights into the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the aerospace and defense industry.”

The Singapore Airshow is held at the purpose-built Changi Exhibition Centre. More information can be found at: www.singaporeairshow.com.