Coming to planes soon: Made-in-Singapore seats

ST Aerospace's initiative will boost Republic's reputation as aerospace hub

Air travellers will soon occupy seats designed, made and installed by a local firm in Singapore.

The start-to-finish work by Singapore Technologies (ST) Aerospace will add another feather in the cap for Singapore, which aims to be not just a premier air hub for travellers but a major aerospace centre as well.

For ST Aerospace, the initiative makes business sense, given strong demand for new aircraft, said a spokesman.

More than 36,000 planes are expected to be delivered to airlines over the next two decades, with almost four in 10 bound for Asia.

"This is a new pillar of growth for us," said ST Aerospace's spokesman.

The plan is to design, manufacture and install seats for all travel cabins, from economy to first class. Work will start in the coming months at ST Aerospace's Paya Lebar facility, she added.

The new initiative - believed to be a first for Singapore - marks an expansion of the firm's work in the area of aircraft cabin refurbishment, which it launched in 2012.

The cabin refurbishment work that ST Aerospace currently undertakes includes the installation of aircraft seats, wiring and carpeting.

It has done such work on about 150 planes, including commercial and private jets.

With the demand for global air travel expected to soar in the coming years and traveller expectations increasing, carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and British Airways, as well as Middle Eastern airlines, are going all out to outdo one another.

Apart from competitive fares, ensuring a good flight - which also includes offering comfortable seats and other onboard facilities and services - is key, said industry experts.

ST Aerospace, which has set aside close to $30 million for this venture to be undertaken jointly with Japanese firm Tenryu, is confident that the move will strengthen its foothold in aircraft product development, said the firm's president, Mr Lim Serh Ghee.

Singapore, already the region's undisputed aerospace leader, will also benefit, said Mr H.R. Mohandas, head of the diploma in aviation management programme at Republic Polytechnic.

With more than 100 aerospace companies based here, no other country in the region comes close when it comes to offering a comprehensive suite of services and facilities, he added.

This includes the manufacturing and testing of aircraft engines, as well as repair and overhaul work.

Singapore's aviation sector is expected to continue to grow strongly, with work in progress to expand Changi Airport's Terminal 1 and build Terminal 4.

In the longer term, Terminal 5, slated to open in a decade, will boost the airport's overall annual passenger handling capacity from 66 million now to 135 million.

karam@sph.com.sg