Showgoers get a fresh look at Singapore’s aviation tradition

Singapore Air Show » 2008
February 18, 2008, 2:11 AM

Opening-day visitors to the inaugural Singapore Airshow will find a brand-new site fit for the newly revamped event. Even the land it sits on is new, reclaimed over the last 10 years from the waters of the Singapore Strait. And best of all, if things go according to plan, access should prove pretty much painless.

Jimmy Lau, managing director of Singapore Airshow and Events, said here yesterday that the canal that separates the car park from the new Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC) provides a natural security barrier. So there will be no need to screen exhibitors’ and visitors’ vehicles entering via the new six-lane highway. And the only hindrance to access should be the occasional display aircraft being towed to or from the adjacent Changi East Air Base, whose runway will launch several of the flying display performers, including the Airbus A380 that dominates the static display.

Across the access bridge from the car park is the main plaza, with the impressive 430,000-square foot exhibition hall on the right, the chalet lines straight ahead and the static park in the angle between them. “The aim was to integrate the three key areas as closely as possible,” Lau said.

The government of Singapore has spent S$82 million ($58 million) on the new site, he said. The organizing company is a joint venture between the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the country’s Defence Science and Technology Agency.

The high level backing has helped Lau and his team attract 225 overseas delegates, a number that “far exceeded my expectations,” he said. Eighty-five percent of them will be from the Asia Pacific region.

After this morning’s opening ceremony, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will serve as guest of honor, the VIPs will roam the halls in small groups rather than the two or three big groups that were the norm at the predecessor airshow, Asian Aerospace.

That event, staged until two years ago at the old CEC just up the road, has moved to Hong Kong. Lau said that in exchange for building the new facility the government had wanted a guarantee that the show would stay here for the long term. “It didn’t get that guarantee, so off they went,” said Lau.

Another factor involved the site’s use for occasions other than the air show, such as a Mercedes Benz driver training event. Lau said he expects 30,000-35,000 trade visitors to show up this week, at least 15,000 of them from overseas, in addition to the 8,000 exhibitor personnel already registered. And he is not concerned that the show’s total of 827 exhibiting companies and subsidiaries appear to be down on the 940 claimed for the 2006 Asian Aerospace.

“I can’t verify the numbers put out by the last show organizers,” Lau said. And even if the final numbers turn out lower, he said, “I won’t be surprised as the industry is constantly evolving and consolidating.”

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