Singapore Airshow 2016

New facility for jet-setters to fly in style

ST Aerospace starts aircraft interior business in Seletar amid rising affluence in Asia-Pacific

At a new facility in Seletar, the well-heeled shop for furniture and other plush fittings for their "homes in the air".

From picking carpets and upholstery for their private planes to deciding on bedroom and toilet finishings, customers can take six to nine months to finalise their choices, said Singapore Technologies (ST) Aerospace Engineering's vice-president and deputy general manager Harold Cheng.

ST Aerospace Engineering, which in 2011 started an aircraft interior business in the United States, opened a similar facility in Seletar Aerospace Park last month.

The start-to-end process of converting an aircraft into a "home in the air" can take up to two years, said Mr Cheng.

"Each person is different, so before we propose the designs and plans, we need to sit down with customers to find out their preferences and personalities," he said.

It costs US$25 million (S$34.8 million) to US$30 million to deck out a single-aisle aircraft such as a Boeing 737.

The work comprises not just refurbishing the aircraft, but also doing the necessary certification and flight tests with the relevant civil aviation authorities, he said.

Speaking at the opening of the 2,700 sq m centre yesterday, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon said the introduction of the new facility is timely.

He noted that in 2014, the Asia-Pacific surpassed North America as home to the largest population of high-net-worth individuals. There are now 4.7 million of them in this region. Such rising affluence has fuelled demand for the refurbishment and completion of cabin interiors of business and corporate jets, he said. With the new facility, ST Aerospace is well placed to tap this demand, Dr Koh added.

The initiative will also allow the firm's technicians and engineers to develop and upgrade their skills - a key thrust of the national SkillsFuture drive, he said.

For customers in Asia, it would provide added convenience, said ST Aerospace president Lim Serh Ghee. "So now, instead of flying 10,000 miles east to the US or west to Europe, we are at their very doorstep," he said.

The business is already off to a good start this year, he said.

Five maintenance and refurbishment contracts have been inked with customers in Asia and the US. Two of the planes will be fitted at the Seletar facility which employs 20 workers. The plan is to raise the staff count to about 70 in three years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'New facility for jet-setters to fly in style'. Print Edition | Subscribe