SINGAPORE - The Singapore Airshow returns this year with fewer participants amid the Covid-19 pandemic and cautious optimism of recovery in the battered aerospace and aviation industries.
More than 13,000 trade visitors and some 600 companies from 39 countries and regions are expected at the biennial aerospace and defence exhibition at the Changi Exhibition Centre from Feb 15 to 18.
This is down from the 2020 Airshow, which received close to 30,000 trade attendees from 110 countries and regions.
The event, which draws trade visitors as well as military and government officials, will be the biggest large-scale industry gathering in Singapore since the pandemic started. The public cannot attend the airshow this year.
The event has been identified as one of the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) pilot events to trial new Covid-19 protocols, including a higher event capacity and daily testing.
Among other measures, attendees must be fully vaccinated and pre-registered. There will also be designated eating areas and regular disinfection of event spaces.
Key participating exhibitors this year include Airbus, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Boeing, Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Rolls-Royce, Thales, Turkish Aerospace and home-grown ST Engineering.
Mr Leck Chet Lam, managing director of organiser Experia Events, said at a media conference at Changi Exhibition Centre on Sunday (Feb 13) that a lower attendance was expected given the current Covid-19 situation.
But he said he was not worried about the impact on the quality of the event. More than 70 per cent of the top 20 global aerospace companies are attending, he added.
"The congregation of the right people are here - top industry players and decision-makers - the conversations will be just as good, if not even better.
"Because right now when we're starting to see green shoots in the industry… We can see and sense the optimism, so I think it's even more important that we set the platform to allow all these decision-makers and industry players to have discussions and navigate our way out of this pandemic."
An aerial display, to be live-streamed online daily from Feb 15 to 18, will feature the debut of the Indian Air Force's light combat aircraft Tejas at the airshow.
Also flying at the airshow for the first time are two commercial planes: the Airbus' A350-1000 and Boeing's wide-bodied B777-9.
Indonesia's Jupiter aerobatic team, last seen at the 2018 airshow, will put up six-plane formations. The Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) F-16C and AH-64D Apache helicopters, as well as the United States Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II and the United States Air Force's B-52 Stratofortress bomber will also perform aerial displays.
Highlights of the static display include the RSAF's new H225m medium-lift helicopter, Airbus' A350-900 commercial plane, and the United States Air Force's F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jet.
Giving an update on Singapore's aerospace industry, Economic Development Board vice-president Lim Tse Yong said that the pandemic has resulted in tightened border controls and a sharp fall in air travel, with the aerospace sector severely affected.
But there are silver linings, said Mr Lim, pointing to the strong demand for air cargo fuelled by online shopping and the pent-up demand for air travel. International air travel is expected to recover to 55 per cent of pre-Covid-19 level this year, before a full recovery by 2026, he noted.
The lower attendance has not changed the significance of Singapore Airshow as the top airshow in this region and one of the leading airshows internationally, he added.
"Many of our business friends have been telling us how much they are looking forward to the airshow. There are only so many Zoom calls people can take, and they are really looking forward to the face-to-face interactions over the course of this week," said Mr Lim.