SINGAPORE: The economic outlook may be cloudy, but participants at next week's Singapore Airshow expect many deals, with orders for shorter-range planes and maintenance contracts among the highlights.
Singapore Airshow 2014 saw the announcement of deals worth US$32 billion, as aircraft makers such as Airbus unveiled multi-billion dollar orders. This time around, organiser Experia Events is hopeful of seeing similar deal values at Singapore Airshow 2016, which takes place from Feb 16 to 21.
One possible area of growth is smaller commercial aircrafts, which can be used to link smaller towns and cities to the main Asian metropolises. Industry analyst Flightglobal said several such orders could be announced next week.
"The regional jet makers are really pushing hard to get the Asian carriers to use smaller jets for certain legs, as opposed to using A320s and 737s, which is what they try to use," said Flightglobal's Asia Managing Editor Greg Waldron. "Hopefully they will see some action around that area.
"We might also see some action around the turboprop area. Turboprops are very effective in the countries in the region, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few turboprop orders."
Turboprop aircraft are slower than jets, but most analysts say speed is immaterial for trips of less than two hours since much of the travel time is taken up by travellers having to go to the airport one to two hours earlier, and the time needed for aircraft to take off and land.
One such maker of turboprop or propeller aircraft is ATR, whose customers include Garuda and Lion Air. Southeast Asia accounts for 50 per cent of ATR's global order backlog.
Meanwhile, Canada's Bombardier, another maker of small aircraft, plans to showcase its new 100- to 150-seat passenger aircraft. Demand for such aircraft is expected to increase, as air travel continues to rise across the world.
According to estimates from the International Air Transport Association, global passenger traffic rose 6.5 per cent last year, the strongest result since 2010. The Asia-Pacific was once again the strongest region, with carriers recording a demand increase of 8.2 percent.
Said Embraer Asia Pacific managing director Ricardo Pesce: "In the next 20 years, two-thirds of the traffic in the world will be represented by the Asia-Pacific region, so it's definitely a land of opportunities here in Asia, and we think we are very well-placed in Singapore as a hub to cover the region from here."
Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer has its regional headquarters in Singapore, along with a regional spare parts distribution centre.
MORE AIRLINES OUTSOURCING MAINTENANCE
Besides smaller commercial aircraft, another growth area in the aviation industry is Maintenance, Repairs and Operations (MRO).
ST Aerospace said that while newer aircraft require less maintenance work, more airlines are outsourcing their MRO operations.
"The aviation maintenance landscape has also evolved," said ST Aerospace president Lim Serh Ghee. "The vertically integrated – they have their own MRO shop. In the last five years, what we’ve seen, particularly with the American carriers, they are outsourcing more to independents like ST Aerospace.
"The outsourcing trend continues, if not grows, as the airlines would want to focus more on their core operations, which are flying people from point A to point B, and leave the maintenance to specialists like ST Aerospace."
Besides showcasing its MRO capabilities at Singapore Airshow 2016, ST Aerospace will also exhibit a new simulation tool that relies on virtual reality to improve training efficiency.
Meanwhile, the first of the aircraft that will be on display during the six-day event arrived at the Changi Exhibition Centre on Wednesday (Feb 10) morning.
The eight military aircraft belong to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and include the familiar Black Knight F-16C jet, which will be part of the static display for the very first time. Visitors will also get a closer look at other military aircraft ranging from attack helicopters to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.