Important to hold Singapore Airshow even with smaller turnout to build on aviation recovery: Organiser
SINGAPORE: It is "important" that the Singapore Airshow is held despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation and a smaller participation, as the biennial event provides a platform for industry players to discuss navigating the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, said exhibition organiser Experia.
The event also takes place amid a "high" level of optimism as the aviation sector recovers, providing an opportunity to capitalise on this growth, said Mr Leck Chet Lam, managing director of Experia on Sunday (Feb 13).
"We are starting to see green shoots in the industry, like passenger travel numbers are up, flight frequencies are up. We can all sense the pent-up demand for travel," said Mr Leck during a press conference at the Changi Exhibition Centre ahead of the Airshow from Tuesday to Friday .
"So I think it's even more important, more imperative that we set the platform of Singapore Airshow now to allow all these decision-makers and top industry makers to come and have discussions around them, and how we can navigate our way out of this pandemic."
Asia's biggest aviation event, the Singapore Airshow is held every two years and attended by government and military delegations, as well as senior corporate executives around the world.
About 600 companies are participating in this year's Airshow, down from 930 in the 2020 event.
About 13,000 trade visitors from 39 countries and regions are expected to attend, less than half that of the 2020 Airshow, which welcomed close to 30,000 trade attendees from 110 countries and regions.
Attendees are required to take daily antigen rapid tests amid cases of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant in Singapore.
Mr Leck was responding to a question on whether a smaller attendance and the COVID-19 situation would affect the quality of the Airshow.
"We all know, in this current environment, the attendance will surely be lower. I think all of us will expect that," he said.
"But as far as the quality is concerned, I'm not worried about that. We have assembled a high-quality set of exhibitors ... top industry players, top decision-makers. The conversations will be just as good, if not even better."
His comments come as the International Air Transport Association projected passenger traffic in Asia-Pacific to grow at a compound annual rate of 4.5 per cent from 2019 to 2040, the highest in the world.
Asia-Pacific is also forecast to have the most new aircraft deliveries over the next 20 years, according to planemakers Airbus and Boeing.
"So if you look at it, in all aspects the level of optimism is high, the growth potential is good. We need to use this opportunity to capitalise on this growth," Mr Leck added. "That's the reason why I think we're here at Singapore Airshow 2022."
Closer to home, figures from the Economic Development Board (EDB) also showed that Singapore's aerospace manufacturing industry output has been growing year-on-year since April 2021. In December, the output grew nearly 60 per cent year-on-year.
"Together with our industry partners, we are turning a corner. 2020 was a lower base for us as our industry was impacted by COVID," said Mr Lim Tse Yong, EDB's vice-president of capital goods. "What is even more encouraging is that our companies are hiring again."
Mr Lim said the industry will create more than 1,000 new jobs in the next few years, with aerospace companies such as Pratt & Whitney, GE Aviation, ST Engineering and Rolls-Royce announcing plans to hire "hundreds of people each".
Nevertheless, Mr Lim said it is important to continue using technology to change the way people work, as well as raise productivity and competitiveness to ensure Singapore's industry remains "best in class".
One growth area, he said, is in sustainability. The Airshow will hold its inaugural sustainable aviation forum on Tuesday and Wednesday, with public and private sector experts discussing topics such as the role of regulators, innovations in engine technology as well as sustainable aviation fuel.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said on Friday that Singapore Airlines and budget carrier Scoot will begin using sustainable aviation fuel from the third quarter of 2022. The fuel will be a mix of refined jet fuel, used cooking oil and waste animal fats.
While noting the signs of recovery, Mr Leck predicted that the aviation industry will not be "exactly the same" as it was pre-COVID-19, saying that it will have to implement lessons learned during the pandemic.
"The aviation industry has to make adjustments and changes," he said. "An example would be like cabin cleaning after a flight. Right now, I'm sure they are thinking of or already have processes and also equipment in terms of taking COVID into consideration."