SINGAPORE: Aviation Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul company Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aerospace) unveiled a new VIP aircraft interiors facility at the Seletar Aerospace Park on Thursday (Feb 11).
The 2,690 sqm centre is the first of its kind in the region and comprises a hangar capable of holding a Boeing 757 aircraft, design studios, and workshops fitted with 3D printing technology. ST Aerospace has spent S$1.7 million on the new facility, and is set to invest a total of S$8 million over the next three years - including training and equipment costs.
The centre will design, upholster and provide fabric for cabin interiors, as well as provide maintenance for narrow-body VIP aircraft, including the Boeing Business Jets and Airbus Corporate Jets.
The opening of the new facility comes as the firm seeks to meet a growing demand for customised aircraft cabin interiors from Asian and Middle Eastern customers, amid rising affluence in the region.
According to the 2014 Knight Frank's Wealth Report, the number of billionaires in Asia alone is expected to grow by 66 per cent from 2013 to 2023.
"The numbers here have already exceeded the numbers in the US. So we know that this is maybe just a beginning of the market for VIP aircraft, but we expect the growth to be quite significant over the next 10 to 20 years," said ST Aerospace's executive vice president for aircraft maintenance and modification, Ang Chye Kiat.
In 2014, the Asia-Pacific region surpassed North America as home to the largest population of high network individuals of around 4.7 million people, an 8.5 per cent increase from the previous year, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon in his opening address.
This rising affluence, Dr Koh added, has led to increased demands in the market, such as cabin interior refurbishment for business and corporate jets.
With the new aircraft interiors centre, the Minister of State said ST Aerospace will be able to "tap on this demand" and "better position itself to capture the opportunities in the region".
JUST IN:ST Aerospace opens new aircraft interiors facility at Seletar Aerospace Park - 1st of its kind in the region pic.twitter.com/k6OQ89DyQq— Kenneth Lim (林忠毅） (@KenLimCNA) February 11, 2016
Besides the opening of the new facility, the company also announced that it has secured five major maintenance and refurbishment contracts in 2016. These consist of three Boeing Business Jets, an Airbus Corporate Jet and a Boeing 757. The aircraft are scheduled to arrive by end-2016.
ST Aerospace currently employs global staff of around 8,000 employees and the facility will also create 70 new skilled jobs, the company said. This includes upholstery stitching and other craftwork, such as turning raw veneer into panels which can be made into table tops, cabinets or doors, depending on the customer's preference.
"Such skill building will be an important part of this centre's work," Dr Koh said. "The Government will continue to work with the industry, including strong partners like ST Aerospace, to upgrade the skills of our people and ensure that they are prepared for jobs of the future."
"Now we deal with all the veneers or woods. Last time we dealt with landing gear, wings and aircraft parts - it's totally different," said Zaini Yahya, a service engineer at ST Aerospace.
Dr Koh also said the centre was an example of how local enterprises can capture opportunities from growth markets - which is one priority for the Committee on the Future Economy.
The 30-man committee was formed in October 2015 to develop Singapore's future economic strategy.