Singapore Airshow Report: Southeast Asian Hotspots Drive Show Business In Singapore

 - March 1, 2014, 5:35 AM
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) re-formed its Black Knights aerobatic team, above, to perform daily at the Singapore Airshow, and the team, and other participants, attracted plenty of spectators.

The 2014 Singapore Airshow (February 11-16) fulfilled its promise as Asia’s leading aerospace and defense industry gathering, with an exhibitor base of more than 1,000 companies from 47 countries, representing about a 10-percent increase on the last staging of the biennial event.

The undisputed highlight of the show was the full international debut of Airbus’s A350XWB widebody, which appeared in both the flying and static displays. It was one of more than 80 aircraft on the ground and in the air.

More than 70 percent of exhibitors from the 2012 show returned to Singapore, and 22 separate national groups participated. From the Asia-Pacific region itself, these included China, Indonesia, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

Further underlining the Asian character of the show and symbolizing the mounting defense expenditure in the region were three impressive aerobatic displays: the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Black Knights team with six Lockheed Martin F-16s; the Black Eagles team of six Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 jet trainers from the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF); and the Jupiter team from the Indonesian air force flying the KAI KT-1B turboprop trainer.

Airline investments from the Asia-Pacific region were also much in evidence, with the value of business announced on the show’s trade days topping $33 billion. Vietnam’s VietJetAir awarded Airbus a $6.4 billion contract covering firm orders for 42 A320neos, 14 A320ceos and seven A321ceos. The VietJetAir deal includes purchase rights for another 30 airplanes and accompanies lease contracts covering seven more A320-series airplanes from third parties. It calls for delivery of the first current-generation A320 this year and the first A320neo in 2018. CFM International CFM56-5Bs will power the aircraft.

More business came Airbus’s way with leasing group Amedeo (formerly Doric Lease) firming up an $8.3 billion order for 20 A380 widebodies. The schedule calls for five or six deliveries per year between 2016 and 2020. The airplane’s baseline cabin configuration features a three-class, 573-seat layout with 427 seats on the lower main deck. The customer has yet to select the powerplant for the A380 from between the Engine Alliance GP7200 and the Rolls-Royce Trent 900.

Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air is set to be the country’s first operator of the Boeing 737 Max, following a $1.45 billion deal covering seven of the new narrowbodies and eight 737-800NGs. Details such as delivery dates have still to be worked out.

On the eve of the Singapore show, GE Capital Aviation Services and Myanmar state-owned flag carrier Myanma Airways signed a $1 billion leasing agreement for 10 Boeing 737-800 and 737 Max models. This agreement is a breakthrough for Myanmar’s air transport sector, which is now better placed to modernize its fleet since the U.S. lifted trade sanctions against the Southeast Asian country.

Myanma Airways will take delivery of six 737NGs directly from Gecas, the commercial aircraft leasing and financing arm of GE, between 2015 and 2017. Deliveries of four 737 Max 8s with CFM International Leap-1B engines will follow through 2020.

During the press conference announcing the deal, Win Swe Tun, deputy director general of Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation, defended the country’s aviation safety record. Last summer, the civil aviation authorities of Indonesia and Myanmar grounded Merpati Nusantara Airlines’ and Myanmar Airways’ Chinese-made Xian MA60 turboprops for safety checks following a series of accidents. Win Swe Tun said Myanmar has instituted a safety management system for carriers and will continue to improve upon aviation safety. “We are a member state of ICAO and we take care of our passengers and our property,” he said.

In a new commercial market outlook for the Asia-Pacific region published just ahead of the Singapore show, Boeing predicts that passenger traffic will grow at 6.3 percent each year over the next two decades, and cargo traffic by 5.8 percent. On this basis the size of the region’s fleet will nearly triple, to 14,750 in 2032 from 5,090 aircraft in 2012. The value of new airplanes bought by carriers in this region will be approximately $1.9 trillion, and will account for 36 percent of global deliveries.

Regional Boom

On the penultimate trade day of the show, Embraer scored a breakthrough deal with Indian domestic carrier Air Costa for 50 E-Jet E2 narrowbodies, plus purchase rights for 50 more. The initial contract, valued at $2.94 billion, will see 25 E190-E2s delivered from 2018 and 25 of the larger E195-E2s arrive beginning the following year. If exercised, the purchase rights would take the total value of the transaction to $5.88 billion.

ATR was the strongest performer among the regional air transport contingent at the Singapore show. The European airframer signed a $1 billion contract with leasing group Dubai Aerospace Enterprise for up to 40 ATR 72-600s, as well as a $200 million contract with Bangkok Airways for up to eight of the 68- to 74-seat twin turboprops. DAE, which has committed to firm orders for 20 and options on 20 more, will take deliveries between 2015 and 2018 and says that it already has lease commitments from several undisclosed operators.

Executives with Mitsubishi Aircraft journeyed to Singapore from Japan to make the case that the four-times-delayed MRJ regional jet program is now getting back on track. Yugo Fukuhara, a company director and head of sales, said that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will join the wings to the first fuselage, followed by the tail, “in a few months.” The program schedule now calls for completion of certification testing and first delivery to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in the second quarter of 2017, two years after first flight.

Viking Air made the first Japanese sale of its Twin Otter 400 turboprop. First Flying Company of Osaka signed an agreement for a pair of the aircraft, each configured with 19 seats. It expects to take delivery early next year and will use the Twin Otters for domestic commuter service on the island of Okinawa and through the Ryukyu Islands.

Bombardier officially opened its new business aircraft service center at Singapore Seletar Airport. The new 92,000-sq-ft facility is the first factory-owned service center for the Canadian airframer in the Asia-Pacific region.

The company also opened a new support office in Singapore to assist airlines operating its CRJ and Q400 airliners in the region, and exhibited a mock-up of its new CSeries narrowbody.

Thailand’s Nok Air firmed up orders for two Q400s from a provisional agreement reached at last November’s Dubai Air Show for up to eight aircraft. Bombardier also announced that Bangladeshi operator US-Bangla Airways will start operating a pair of Q400s on domestic services next month.

For Gulfstream, airshows are an open invitation to break speed records, and it is now claiming two more. The G650 flew the 5,909 nm from Hawaii to Singapore in 14 hours and 6 minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.85. The smaller G280 flew from Savannah, Ga., to Singapore with stops in Anchorage, Alaska, and Tokyo at an average speed of Mach 0.80, and with times for the respective legs of 7 hours and 41 minutes, 6 hours and 50 minutes and 8 hours and 9 minutes.

Nextant Aerospace gave a Singapore show debut to its remanufactured 400XTi. The company was also promoting its proposed G90XT reworking of Beechcraft’s King Air C90.

On the first day of the Singapore show, Malaysian operator Weststar Aviation Services ordered 10 more AgustaWestland AW139s. The company, which will use the aircraft to support offshore oil and gas industry activity, will have a fleet of 34 AW139s once deliveries are complete.

The Italian manufacturer also received an order for one AW139 from the Republic of Korea’s public procurement service and Chungnam firefighting department. The rotorcraft will perform firefighting, search-and-rescue, EMS and utility missions in support of the local community.

FBO Services

ExecuJet Aviation shared details of its new FBO at Bali International Airport in Indonesia. The company is set to move into a new 34,000-sq-ft general aviation terminal three separate lounges, about 10 times more space than its original facility provided. Airport companies also plan to add a pair of 27,000-sq-ft hangars.

Jet Aviation has nearly finished a major expansion of its business aviation maintenance facility at Singapore Seletar Airport. The $25 million project should be complete next month, tripling the size of the current facility by adding almost 54,000 sq ft of hangar space.

BBA Aviation’s Asia-Pacific president, David Best, said that the business aviation services group is eager to add to its FBO network in the region. It recently opened a new base at Singapore Changi Airport.

Indonesia Reboots Aerospace Ambitions With Turboprop Plan

Indonesian Aerospace signaled its intention to fulfill long-held ambitions to enter the air transport market with plans for a new 19-seat twin turboprop. The N219 will be developed with strong short takeoff and landing performance to make it appeal to operators that need to access the remote, semi-prepared landing strips that are common in Indonesia’s vast chain of islands. First flight is projected for next year.

The state-owned company has built the Casa Aviocar twin turboprop under license as the NC212. Compared to this model, the N219 is longer and aerodynamically cleaner. The wing is mounted slightly higher to keep cabin intrusion to a minimum, resulting in what Indonesian Aerospace says will be the largest cabin in its class.

The sponson-mounted fixed undercarriage of the Aviocar is replaced by a sprung unit. The two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42 turboprops (each producing 850 shp) provide a takeoff distance of 1,427 feet to clear a 35-foot obstacle; landing distance after clearing a 50-foot obstacle is 1,587 feet. Indonesian Aerospace has selected a Garmin flight deck with a five-screen display.

Indonesian Aerospace already has an order for 50 N219s from Indonesian carrier Lion Air, plus 50 options. NBA (Nusantara Buana Air), an NC212 operator, signed for 30 aircraft (including options) in February 2012. Indonesian Aerospace also sees a market for the N219 among military and freight operators. The aircraft has a flexible door system allowing it to admit bulky items, and the cabin can be reconfigured for various special missions.

Rockwell Collins Introduces New Weather Radar

For Rockwell Collins, the Singapore Airshow was the opportunity to launch its new MultiScan Threat Track radar. The avionics group claims the radar provides air transport aircraft with “unprecedented” atmospheric threat-assessment capabilities.

The new radar, which builds on Rockwell Collins’s advanced MultiScan weather radar, adds features to further improve flight safety and efficiency. For example, the company said, ThreatTrack goes beyond predicting hail and lightning within a thunderstorm cell to alert pilots of significant threats adjacent to a cell. If thunderstorms are growing ahead and below the aircraft, the radar’s “predictive overflight” function warns pilots if the cells will move into the aircraft’s flight path.

Among other features, MultiScan ThreatTrack also provides track-while-scan capability, which prioritizes weather threats out to 320 nm by performing dedicated horizontal and vertical scans on convective cells; predictive wind-shear detection, with wind-shear event data recording and retrieval; and geographic weather correlation, which uses a database of geographic and seasonal weather variations to provide accurate worldwide hazard information.

MultiScan ThreatTrack is also the first weather radar to feature two levels of turbulence detection–“severe” and “ride quality”–to pilots a more accurate portrait of the turbulence in their flight path, Rockwell Collins said. American Airlines will launch the new radar on its new fleet of Boeing 737NGs, and Rockwell Collins expects to certify the radar on the Boeing 777 in March.