Singapore Airshow Day 1: Gloom, doom and boom

Rain and virus fears provide the gloom and the doom while military delegations provide the boom on a very, very quiet opening day.

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Officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 2020 Singapore Airshow. (PHOTO: Experia Events)

The 2020 Singapore Airshow opened Tuesday (11 February) to trade visitors and the picture wasn’t pretty for anyone in the commercial aerospace world. Deserted show spaces that were supposed to be the Asian outposts of global companies showing off their latest and greatest wares were the talk of the show.

Officials from Singapore’s government, organiser Experia Events and even some delegations, tried to soldier on in the face of sparse attendance on the commercial side but it was clear that they are disappointed and unhappy with the turnout and the fairly empty flight-line as well. On the positive side, military delegations were out in full force checking out the latest arms and arms-related products.

An empty space where Bell Helicopter was supposed to display its products. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

“The strong show of support among some of the world’s top global aerospace and defence companies is a testimony of the importance and relevance of the Singapore Airshow as a prime gateway to Asia’s buoyant markets,” said Leck Chet Lam, managing director of  Experia Events. “We look forward to a week of strategic dialogues, expansive networking and powerful collaboration that will shape the pace of transformation of Asia’s aviation industry.”

The problem facing the airshow is of course, the Wuhan coronavirus that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now named COVID-19 that makes no reference to places, animals or people to avoid stigma. The virus has killed more than 1,000 people, mainly in China, and infected tens of thousands more around the world. Much like the SARS virus in 2002-2003, COVID-19 is expected to cost the aviation industry billions of dollars when all is said and done.

The ability of Asia-Pacific airlines to recover from the disruption of COVID-19 “may be more challenging when compared to previous epidemics, owing to lower growth rates in the regional economies”, according to Alton Aviation Consultancy.

Adam Cowburn, managing director of Alton.

Adam Cowburn, managing director at Alton said at the airshow: “The scale of global restrictions and flight suspensions has been faster and more significant than experienced during the SARS period in 2003, and the promise of recovery in the near-term is certainly not guaranteed. At the time of the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Chinese economy was growing close to 10 percent, cushioning the negative impact on air travel. Coronavirus comes at a time when the Chinese economy is estimated to grow at a more modest 6 percent, and with the aviation industry intrinsically more connected globally today, air travel is less likely to remain as resilient.”

Although the impact of COVID-19 on air travel will be felt worldwide, the Chinese and Southeast Asian airlines will be hit hardest. “Chinese and Southeast Asia  airlines will be disproportionately affected, with the suspension of domestic and international Chinese tour groups – set in place to contain the virus – impacting the airline and tourism markets especially hard. Airlines serving the top Chinese destinations, namely Hong Kong and Macau, will undoubtably endure the full brunt, and these markets are served extensively by Chinese and Southeast Asian carriers,” Cowburn said.

Singapore Airshow 2020 News in Brief

Rolls-Royce launches new digital platform: Rolls-Royce data innovation catalyst R2 Data Labs has launched Yocova, a new data exchange and collaboration platform for the aviation sector. The platform seeks to empower users by providing an online space for open, secure data sharing and insight while offering an exchange through which users can sell their data-driven assets and software applications. Yocova allows aviation professionals to connect with each other in order to collaborate, control and commercialise data sources and applications. The platform, which is designed to help users manage complex data environments, was originally conceived as part of our IntelligentEngine vision as a secure space for users to flexibly share data sources. The platform has since grown and has already welcomed a large number of individual users, data science specialists and aviation application providers, including Singapore Airlines – the first major airline participant. Singapore Airlines has worked closely with Rolls-Royce to develop the concept of an open data collaboration and innovation platform from product to prototype. Today, the airline uses the platform to enhance its own operations.

ST Engineering announces new deals, drone moves: Airbus and their joint venture, Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) achieved new milestones for their joint A321 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion solution with the first post-conversion flight test for the prototype A321P2F unit and new orders. The first flight test for the prototype unit, which is to be redelivered to launch customer Vallair, was successfully carried out on 22 January this year after undergoing conversion at ST Engineering’s facility in Singapore. The next milestone that follows the completion of flight tests will be the issue of the supplemental type certificate (STC) by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is estimated to be by end 1Q2020. The A321P2F programme, launched in 2015, is the result of a collaboration between ST Engineering, Airbus and EFW. ST Engineering is responsible for the engineering development phase, up to obtaining the supplemental type certificate (STC) from EASA and US Federal Aviation Administration.

ST Engineering also announced that it and Wilhelmsen Ships Service (WSS) will be collaborating to develop and test solutions to enable Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations for shore-to-ship parcel deliveries in Singapore. As part of this collaboration, ST Engineering will provide a suite of flight tests and technology development services for system integration and solution prototyping. Key enabling technologies to be developed include precision landing on-board ship vessel’s metallic platform, non-line-of-sight datalink and parcel delivery authentication and release system. At the same time, WSS will help to strengthen the commercialisation and operational aspects of the solution development. This collaboration will receive funding as part of the Call-For-Proposal by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Singapore Ministry of Transport, which aims to support the development of systems and technologies to enable innovations within the wide-ranging use of UAS.

ST Engineering also announced that its aerospace arm has secured a three-year airframe heavy maintenance contract from a major North American airline. Under the agreement, ST Engineering will provide heavy maintenance support on the airline’s fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft (comprising A319, A320, A321neo) at the Group’s facilities in San Antonio, Texas. The first aircraft was inducted and redelivered in January 2020.

ST Engineering also said it has secured a five-year nacelle maintenance contract from Qantas Airways. Under the agreement, ST Engineering will provide nacelle maintenance services starting from 2020 to the airline’s Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330 fleet.

TrueNoord delivers second Dash 8-400 to Philippine Airlines: TrueNoord has delivered the second of two new Dash 8-400 aircraft which it has placed on long-term operating lease agreements with Philippine Airlines (PAL). These aircraft (MSN 4610/4612) are the first Dash 8-400 aircraft manufactured by De Havilland Aircraft of Canada to enter service in TrueNoord’s portfolio. TrueNoord is currently broadening its options within the turboprop segment of its fleet and these Dash 8-400s join the lessor’s expanding fleet comprising 47 aircraft in total including: ATR, Embraer and Bombardier aircraft. Both De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 aircraft have been financed within TrueNoord’s US$360 million revolving warehouse facility which is underwritten by Citibank, Société Générale and Royal Bank of Canada. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman advised TrueNoord and Norton Rose represented Philippine Airlines on the transaction.

PNG Air purchases three ATR 42-600S aircraft: Regional aviation manufacturer ATR  announced an order of three ATR 42-600S aircraft from PNG Air. The deal also means that PNG Air will be a launch customer for the STOL version. The ATR 42-600S will be capable of taking-off from and landing on runways that are as short as 800m in length, with 40 passengers on board in standard flight conditions. Currently operating seven ATR 72-600, the airline has captured over 40 percent of domestic market share since introducing its ATR -600 fleet in 2015. These three new STOL aircraft will replace PNG Air’s current fleet of ageing STOL turboprops. With many current generation 30-seat STOL aircraft coming to the end of their lifecycles, airlines worldwide must replace these aircraft or the communities that they serve risk losing vital connectivity. PNG Air has provided aviation services in PNG for over 25 years and has been listed on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange since 2008. The airline is owned by major Papua New Guinea institutions namely the country’s largest Superannuation provider; Nasfund and Mineral Resource Development Corporation a significant Landowner representative. PNG Air operates an extensive scheduled RPT and freight network.

Airbus reveals its blended wing aircraft demonstrator: Airbus has revealed the MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls), its “blended wing body” scale model technological demonstrator. At 2 metres long and 3.2 metres wide, with a surface area of about 2.25m², MAVERIC features a disruptive aircraft design, that has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent compared to current single-aisle aircraft. The “blended wing body” configuration also opens up new possibilities for propulsion systems type and integration, as well as a versatile cabin for a totally new on-board passenger experience. Launched in 2017, MAVERIC first took to the skies in June 2019. Since then the flight-test campaign has been on-going and will continue until the end of Q2 2020. Through AirbusUpNext, a research programme, Airbus is currently working on a number of demonstrator projects in parallel; E-FAN X (hybrid-electric propulsion), fello’fly (v-shaped “formation” flight) and ATTOL (Autonomous Taxi Take-Off & Landing).

Japan Airlines signs deal with Amadeus: Japan Airlines (JAL) has deepened its distribution partnership with Amadeus becoming the airline’s recommended distribution partner for travel agents in Japan. The implementation of Amadeus Altéa NDC  will be helping JAL enhance the retailing and servicing of its offers across channels, ensuring consistent brand delivery at scale. JAL will be integrating its NDC contents into the Amadeus Travel Platform for distribution using Amadeus NDC Connect, which is a solution specifically designed for Altéa airlines to make their NDC content seamlessly available for travel sellers worldwide. For Amadeus travel sellers this means that JAL’s NDC content will soon be available through the Amadeus Travel Platform through an NDC connectivity, ensuring operational continuity and access to a wide range of JAL’s content.

BBAM orders three 737-800 Boeing converted freighters: BBAM and Boeing announced the lessor has ordered three 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCF), underscoring the growing e-commerce and express sector of the air cargo market. BBAM has one of the world’s biggest Next-Generation 737 fleets and has chosen the BCF program to convert three airplanes in its existing fleet. The 737-800BCF is built on the Next-Generation 737 platform, well known for its reliability and efficiency. The airplane carries up to 52,800 pounds (23.9 metric tons) of payload with excellent operating economics to maximize operators’ profits. Since entering service in 2018, the 737-800BCF has won 130 orders and commitments. According to the Boeing Commercial Market Outlook, 2,820 freighters will enter the global fleet to meet market demand, including 1,220 standard-body passenger-to-freighter conversions. Responding to strong market demand, Boeing announced plans to add a 737-800BCF production line at Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company (GAMECO) this summer.

Korean Air selects Pratt & Whitney GTF for 50 Airbus A321neo aircraft: Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies, and Korean Air announced the formal selection of the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine to power up to 50 Airbus A321neo aircraft.  The aircraft are expected to begin delivery in 2021. Korean Air and Pratt & Whitney are also entering into discussions for the Korean Air Maintenance and Engineering Division to join Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G-JM GTF MRO network. Korean Air currently operates 10 Airbus A220-300 aircraft in service powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engines. In addition, Korean Air’s Pratt & Whitney powered fleet includes 18 777s, six 747s, and 29 A330s.  Korean Air also operates a fleet of 10 A380s powered by the Engine Alliance GP7200 engine, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and General Electric.

Collins Aerospace advances Singapore Innovation Hub: Collins Aerospace Systems has opened its Singapore Innovation Hub, a new 10,000 square foot facility. The Innovation Hub is expected to add more than 40 new jobs from disciplines including robotics and automation engineering, software development, and data science. Collins Aerospace has committed to delivering more than 40 proof-of-concepts over the next five years that are expected to evolve to new product and enhanced service offerings for its MRO customers. The Innovation Hub will leverage automation, sensing, and machine learning technology to address customer pain points such as inventory management and part availability. Additionally, the Innovation Hub will advance additive manufacturing capabilities and techniques and become one of three centres of excellence for additive technologies for Collins Aerospace. These new digital, additive, and automated capabilities will also enable original equipment production to help serve customer needs. Collins Aerospace also said it has signed a 12-year service agreement to provide support to Singapore Airlines’ 787 fleet through its DispatchSM flight hour program. Dispatch guarantees the availability of high-performance avionics and communications assets to customers around the globe. Collins Aerospace has existing service agreements that cover Singapore Airlines’ A350 fleet, SilkAir’s Boeing 737 fleet and Scoot’s Boeing 787 aircraft.

Japan Airlines signs GEnx service agreement: Japan Airlines (JAL) signed a nine-year TrueChoice Flight Hour Agreement that covers the airline’s GEnx-1B engines on its Boeing 787 international fleet. The agreement is valued at US$1.3 billion over the life of the contract. JAL and GE have a long-standing relationship that began with the CF6 engine. Today, JAL operates an extensive fleet of aircraft powered by GE’s CF6, CF34, GE90, GEnx and CFM International’s CFM56 engines. The TrueChoice suite of engine maintenance offerings incorporates an array of GE capabilities and customisation across an engine’s lifecycle. Each TrueChoice offering is underpinned by GE Aviation’s data and analytic capabilities and experience to help reduce maintenance burden and service disruptions for customers.

Sichuan Airlines to fly with Thales CORE IFE solution: Sichuan Airlines has selected Thales CORE IFE for its future fleet of A350 aircraft to deliver on their promise for exceptional passenger experience. Entry into service is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021. Sichuan Airlines’ new A350’s will include a two-class cabin configuration equipped with 17” displays in business class, 12” displays in economy class and new state-of-the-art SELECT graphical user interface (GUI) featuring the latest user-experience technologies creating the most intuitive passenger experience ever while celebrating Sichuan Airlines’ brand.

Jet Aviation expands service capabilities at its Hawker Pacific facility in Cairns: Jet Aviation’s Hawker Pacific facility in Cairns, Australia, has received FAA authorisation to install its aural alerting equipment on aircraft at the facility. This approval extends the company’s exclusive arrangement with Pratt & Whitney Canada for engine prognostics equipment service and support. Development of the alert system, including the looms and installation hardware, was completed exclusively at Hawker Pacific Cairns. The new Auxiliary Aural Alerter System alerts pilots with an aural warning as they approach an exceedance and is complementary to the Pratt & Whitney Canada’s (P&WC) engine diagnostic systems. Hawker Pacific in Cairns is the only repair organization in the world outside the P&WC facilities that is approved to support P&WC’s diagnostics products (DPHM).

Astronautics gets FAA validation from FAA: Astronautics Corporation of America’s AFI4700 RoadRunner Electronic Flight Instrument (EFI) has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) validation from the India Directorate General of Civil Aviation for A109E helicopters. The EFI provides operators readability in all lighting conditions, enablement of modern navigation and approach capability, reduced operating and maintenance costs, and minimal downtime for installation.  The unit is easily upgradeable with new software functionality tailorable to customer needs and mission requirements. The RoadRunner EFI has an FAA STC for Leonardo A109/119 helicopters and bilateral validation with European Aviation Safety Agency and Brazil Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil.

Former CEO of Thailand’s Nok Air launches autobiography: Patee Sarasin, CEO and founder of online travel agency Really Really Cool and the former CEO of Nok Air, has launched a tell-all autobiography where he discusses the challenges and crises he experienced running Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air. “The book is controversial and will ruffle feathers, but it is a story that needs to be told,” says Patee. “It is ironic that we are launching the book now, when the aviation industry is experiencing a major global crisis caused by the coronavirus, because my book Smiling Through Turbulence is all about crises that airlines go through. As an airline CEO you have to put on a brave face and take the brunt of any crisis affecting the airline, so the people who work for you can focus on their jobs which is caring for and helping the airline’s passengers.”

L3Harris Technologies to provide new simulators to Meihua: L3Harris Technologies will provide two new Full Flight Simulators (FFS) for Chinese flight training operator Guangdong Meihua Aviation Technology’s new centre in Guangzhou, China. The L3Harris A320 and B737NG simulators will be equipped with a fully-electric motion system, which reduces maintenance costs and power consumption, while increasing reliability. Meihua has the option to buy another 737NG and 737MAX FFS by the end of 2020 to further expand its training capacity. Guangdong Xue Hang Group is an integrated group that has been focused in the aviation industry for 23 years, it has a profound accumulation of resources and technical advantages, its business covers many areas both domestic and overseas. Meihua is a wholly owned subsidiary of Xue Hang Group, specialize in pilot training, flight attendant training, dispatcher training, maintenance training and other aviation training, as well as training equipment development and assembly, aviation exhibition, flight experience and other integrated aviation services.

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