Highlights and summary from the last trade day of the Singapore Air Show 2012.
Wings Air climbs
The final day of the show it was the turn of the regional aircraft operators to step into the limelight as ATR and Bombardier both announced new orders. Once again it was Indonesian airline Lion Air that was doing the purchasing when it announced that the carrier was to buy 27 ATR 72-600 regional turboprops for its regional subsidiary Wings Air. Once these new aircraft enter in service, Wings Air will become the largest operator of ATR turboprops in the world with a fleet of 20 ATR 72-500s and 40 ATR 72-600s.
When answering press questions after the official signings, Wings Air chairman and president Pak Rusdi Kirana made the interesting remark that, if ATR was to make even larger turboprops with over 100 seats then he would buy them – to which ATR ceo Filippo Bagnato responded: “We always listen to our customers.”
Battle commences for F-16 ASEA radars
A key battleground in the defence market is upgrading older platforms and in particular, the multirole F-16 fighter with the latest active AESA radars. This pits the incumbent F-16 radar supplier (along with F-22/F-35 AESAs) Northrop Grumman against Raytheon (F-15, F/A-18E/F AESAs) who are vying for both USAF and international orders. For its part, Northrop Grumman says its long experience with the F-16, and its latest work on the F-35 radar, give it an advantage in its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). Northrop says it expects the swapping of radars to be an almost drop-in solution – a ‘two person job over two days’. Meanwhile rival Raytheon is touting that it currently supports the only two AESA radars in service in Asia-Pacific – in RAAF Super Hornets, and RSAF F-15SGs and is offering its Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR). With South Korea and Taiwan major F-16s operators, Asia-Pacific is thus a key market. The USAF too, has issued an RFI for ASEA radars for its F-16 fleet. However, this is on a slightly longer timescale, with an initial in-service date of around 2017. But it is not only F-16s that could benefit from AESA retrofits. Raytheon for example sees classic F/A-18 Hornets as another potential market, while Northrop said that the T-50 too could also be an application. Interestingly the ASEA battle could also spread to non-US platforms. Indeed, in a significant development, an industry source at one US radar manufacturer said that it had already been approached by more than one Eurofighter customer who were unimpressed with the slow pace of European AESA radar progress
Bombardier scores with Q400 orders
Meanwhile Bombardier notched up some much-needed Q400 NextGen orders, confirming a previous order for five Q400s from Ethiopian Airlines and landing a new order for two Q400NGs from US carrier Horizon Air.
C-MUSIC to the ears for MANPADS defence
The aftermath of the Libya conflict has increased worries that stocks of shoulder-launched surface to air missiles or MANPADS may now be in the hands of terrorists, intent on shooting down an airliner. Fortunately Elbit Systems has already developed a Directed Infra Red Countermeasures (DIRCM) system for civil airliners, which has now been certficated by the Israeli CAAI and will be installed on Israeli-registered airliners later this year. C-MUSIC as it is called, uses a small mirror turret and fiber–laser to provide automatic protection (even against salvo fired MANPADS). Having come from a lightweight military defensive aids system, C-MUSIC is also going back into the military sphere on the Embraer KC-390 and Italian Air Force C-130J, C-27J and AW101.
An-124 space launcher?
Spotted in the halls was this concept from Russian company Air Launch for an air-launched space access system using a giant An-124 transport aircraft and a rearward ejecting rocket. The concept would see an An-124 climb to altitude before a 100ton 2-stage liquid-fueled rocket is ejected out of the back in a canister. Once clear of the aircraft, the rocket would slide out of the canister, using small retro rockets to orient itself correctly, before firing its NK-43 main engine. By launching this way from the equator, from a base on Biak Island, Indonesia, Air Launch say this system could allow satellites 1.5 times heavier to be put in LEO and 4-5 times the mass into GEO compared to Russian spaceports. The company says it has already received expressions of interest from satellite companies and the next step is test rear ramp ejection with a dummy rocket with the same mass to prove the concept.
CAE boosts Asian training
CAE signing an MoU with the Brunei Economic Development Board to build a new helicopter training facility, CAE to provide a five-year training contract for AirAsia A320 first officers as part of a multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) programme,
Engine deals mount up
Today saw a continuation of engine order announcements, including Air Pacific buying Trent 700s for three A330-200s, more Trent 700s for eight Cebu Pacific A330-300s and an order for P&W PW1100-JMs to power six TransAsia Airways A321 neos.
E-taxiing on display
Seen at two different exhibition stands at the show was two separate electric e-taxiing systems designed to save fuel, money and the planet, by reducing the time the main engines are running while on the ground. Germany’s DLR, in conjunction with Airbus and Lufthansa Technik is taking the approach of a zero-emission fuel cell-power system, which it says could cut emissions (and fuel burn) of 20% while on the ground. Meanwhile, Honeywell and Safran’s e-taxiing system, which draws power from the APU, is set to begin trials with easyJet and could, say Honeywell save 4% in fuel burn from gate to gate.
This years Singapore Air Show was a visible indicator of the sheer growth in aviation and defence in Asia-Pacific, especially when compared to budget-constrained Europe and the US.
In particular the expansion of the Lion Air group, for example, which having firmed up its earlier 201 Boeing 737MAX order, used the show to buy business jets, turboprops and is reported to be considering widebodies – gives an idea of the fast-growing potential in the region.
Outside of the orders placed, another theme of the show was the continued backlash against Europe’s ETS scheme from Asian and other airlines, as well as other industry stakeholders worried that this action may spiral out of control.
The show was also notable in the rush by OEMs and MROS to boost their support and service footprints in the region to deal with the ongoing growth. The example of Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park which has attracted not only Rolls-Royce’s first large civil engine factory outside the UK, but also Bell, Cessna, Hawker Pacific, Eurocopter, Fokker and Bombardier to be closer to their customers.
In defence too, the shift in the balances of power and the rise of China has accelerated acquisition plans, with India’s military spending leaving onlookers gasping. New fighters and maritime patrol aircraft too are the hottest products right now, with South Korea the next biggest must-win competition. But upgrades too are also making their mark, in the form of increased precision weapons or better sensors. Exportability and affordability also are key selling points.
UAVs too, continue to be a desired item. However some, such as Boeing’s Jeff Kohler, vice president, Business Development, Military Aircraft warn that asking the question “I want a UAV to do solve this problem” is not the correct approach – and that some tasks could be better left manned or even performed by a swarm of rapid reaction nano-satellites. Refering to jumping on the UAV bandwagon, he notes “too many people are asking the wrong questions”.
Finally the show also highlighted the growth of business aviation in the region, from its small share just a decade ago, to today where the demand for bizjets, (especially from China and large-cabin aircraft) means that manufacturers are seeing the share of US vs international sales move inexorably outside the United States.
Celebrating 100 years of aviation in Singapore was this half-scale stainless steel replica of a Bristol Boxkite, complete with furry feline test pilot. Was this the original Lion Air?