Planemaker Airbus opens $38m campus in Singapore

51,000 sq m facility in Seletar a statement of confidence in Singapore, says Chan Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing being given a tour of the Airbus Singapore Campus' Digital Experience Centre yesterday, accompanied by Airbus chief commercial officer and head of international Christian Scherer (right). The campus consolid
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing being given a tour of the campus yesterday, accompanied by Airbus chief commercial officer and head of international Christian Scherer (right). ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A $38 million campus bringing together all of airplane maker Airbus' operations in Singapore was officially opened in Seletar yesterday.

The opening was initially scheduled nearly nine months ago but was delayed by the pandemic.

The consolidation comes in the midst of the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the global aviation and aerospace industry. Ancillary services such as the maintenance and production of aircraft have suffered a 40 per cent hit when compared with last year, while passenger numbers have plunged by 66 per cent.

This makes the 51,000 sq m facility - occupying an area slightly more than seven football fields - a statement of confidence in Singapore, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said at its inauguration.

"Prior to Covid-19, most of us would have looked at this event as just another occasion where someone from the aviation industry makes an investment in Singapore. What is significant about today is that this is a time when very few people in the world are actually thinking about growing the aviation industry," he said.

New facilities on the campus include a three-storey office building that serves as the company's regional hub for Airbus' commercial aircraft, defence, space and helicopter businesses in the region, as well as a second warehouse that will increase the company's storage capacity by over 70 per cent.

There will also be a branch of Airbus' global leadership university, which provides training for its employees, the second one in Asia after Beijing, and a facility from which a new regional operation for Skywise, the company's digital service platform, can be launched.

The European giant employs around 800 people in Singapore and more than 130,000 worldwide, and already has a training centre and spare parts distribution facility at the site in Seletar.

Airbus chief commercial officer and head of international Christian Scherer, in his speech at the inauguration, noted that aviation has continued to support 47 million jobs, or 2.5 per cent of all employment, in the region, and urged Singapore to continue to take the lead in generating protocols that would allow planes to take to the skies.

He added: "When the flying resumes, we think that by positioning ourselves here in Singapore, we will be able to re-establish physical contact with our partners and customers and move to the next phase of recovery."

Airbus has been in Singapore for about 50 years, beginning in 1969 with the sale of the first four helicopters to the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

Since then, it has worked closely with companies in the aerospace industry on the island, jointly investing with Singapore Airlines to train pilots and working with A*Star on aerospace research.

The Airbus Asia Training Centre, a joint venture between Airbus and Singapore Airlines which opened in 2016, is now Airbus' largest flight crew training facility in its global network, with more than 60 airlines using it.

Mr Chan said the opening of the campus "in the depth of crisis" assures him that not much can stop Singapore and Airbus' partnership in the next 50 years.

He spoke of opportunities emerging in several areas, including in sustainability for the aviation industry to achieve carbon-neutral growth and future modes of transportation such as drones that could improve the safety of flights.

The Covid-19 pandemic led Airbus to cut about 15,000 jobs worldwide earlier this year, although it did not reveal to what extent employees in Singapore would be affected. The Straits Times understands that Airbus has no plans to increase the number of employees here in the coming months.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Planemaker Airbus opens $38m campus in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe