Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Airshow 2022 Opening Ceremony on 14 February 2022 

 Minister Iswaran, Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen, a very warm welcome to the 8th edition of the Singapore Airshow. This is the largest trade and exhibition show to be held in Singapore since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore Airshow

Some of you were also present when I launched the 7th edition of the Singapore Airshow two years ago to the week in this same venue. As Ravinder said earlier, it would be one of the last major physical events before we were hit hard by the pandemic. Few would have imagined the disruptions to air travel, or that the pandemic will still be with us two years later. At its peak in April 2020, international passenger traffic shrank by more than 90% . For Singapore, passenger traffic at Changi Airport fell to less than 1% of pre-COVID levels. With fewer planes flying, the aerospace industry has not been spared. Global spending on aerospace MRO dropped by over 40% in 2020. Delivery of new aircraft is projected to be more than 20% lower in the next decade.

Two years on, as we learn to live with the virus, countries are gradually re-opening their borders. International air travel passenger volume is expected to recover to 55% of pre-COVID levels this year, up from about 20% in 2021. IATA expects to see recovery to pre-COVID levels by 2025 or 2026. In tandem, we can also expect greater aerospace MRO activities, and new aircraft orders. We are therefore holding the Singapore Airshow at an appropriate time, as the global aviation and aerospace sectors look forward to recovery and new opportunities.

The Singapore Airshow this year welcomes more than 13,000 trade attendees. Besides reconnecting with your business partners and meeting new ones in face-to-face settings, participants can also view the many cutting-edge platforms that will be on display.

We can also look forward to the aerial display performances from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and our friends from around the world. There will be performances by the RSAF’s F-16 and AH-64 Apache helicopters. We welcome back the United States Marine Corps’ F-35B and the United States Air Force’s B-52, after their outstanding performance in 2020. We also warmly welcome back our friends from the Indonesian Air Force’s Jupiter Aerobatics Team, who had delighted audiences here in 2018. In addition, we are glad to welcome the Indian Air Force’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, which will be making its debut at this Airshow. A very big thank you to our friends from abroad for participating in the aerial displays despite the ongoing pandemic.

The Airshow is significant for Singapore, as it reflects our commitment to safely re-open our economy and borders to the rest of the world. With the roll-out of vaccines and boosters, many countries are relaxing travel restrictions. Singapore is committed to do our part to resume global air travel. We have progressively implemented quarantine free travel through Vaccinated Travel Lanes, or VTLs, with more than 20 countries. Despite the global surge in cases, our VTLs remained open. We intend to extend VTLs to more countries when the situation permits. We also facilitated safe transfers at Changi Airport, enabling close to 1.5 million travellers to connect through Changi to their onward destination last year.

Growing the Aviation and Aerospace Sectors

As importantly, this Airshow also underlines our belief in the long-term prospects of the aviation and aerospace sectors. As demand recovers, the Asia Pacific region is projected to become the largest aviation market in the world, accounting for more than 40% of new aircraft deliveries in the next two decades. The fundamentals for growth are strong – an increasingly inter-connected global economy, a fast-growing middle class, and enhanced air connectivity. The aviation sector also has a strong multiplier effect on adjacent industries, including logistics, hospitality and professional services. Beyond integrating the global economy, aviation also brings billions of people together. People travel by air to visit friends and loved ones, and to explore interesting sights and cultures around the world. Aviation has helped to deepen shared perspectives of our common humanity. Hence, we should resolve to bring aviation and aerospace to new heights as we rebuild for a better post-pandemic future.

Singapore is committed – as a global air hub – to grow the aviation and aerospace sectors. Our efforts today will not only define the current flight path but will also set the trajectory ten to twenty years from now. In the present, our focus is to invest in new capabilities and in our workers, as we strengthen the path to recovery. In the coming decade, the flight path will be defined by digitalisation and sustainability. Hence, we must redouble efforts to make these major transitions and unlock new possibilities. In the decade beyond, new breakthroughs will reshape aviation and aerospace. We must invest in deep innovation today, to be at the forefront of change. Now. 10 years and beyond. Let me elaborate on how Singapore can play our part.

Now: Invest in Capabilities and People

First, investing in capabilities and workers in the near term. Since COVID-19 struck, the Government has put in more than S$1billion to support the aviation and aerospace sectors – to protect jobs and preserve capabilities.

Companies based here also adapted as demand shifted. When passenger volume fell, demand for air cargo rose, as e-commerce grew strongly. In response, Singapore Airlines temporarily converted passenger cabins to carry cargo. Likewise, ST Engineering Aerospace pivoted to conduct more passenger-to-freighter conversions.

The Government is also partnering companies to make use of the downtime to build new capabilities and upskill their workers. Safran and Liebherr are expanding their MRO capabilities in Singapore to serve newer-generation aircraft platforms. Meggitt is opening its expanded components support centre which would double its footprint. PPG has launched its new Aerospace Application Support Centre which will add to the vibrancy of our ecosystem. We also look forward to celebrating the opening of SIA Engineering Company’s new CFM LEAP engine maintenance and quick turn facility.

At the same time, Singapore is continuing to invest in infrastructure. We are upgrading Changi Airport Terminal 2, and reviewing the plans of the new Terminal 5 to better cater to the needs of a post-pandemic world. Seletar Aerospace Park is also growing to become a leading aerospace industrial park in the region. This year, we expect to complete construction of aeroSpace Three, the latest development at Seletar Aerospace Park. aeroSpace Three will provide aerospace companies with “plug & play” smart factory solutions for advanced aerospace manufacturing & MRO activities. We are seeing good demand for such customisable spaces.

By preserving capabilities and investing in new growth areas during the crisis, Singapore looks forward to partnering you as we turn a new chapter in aviation history.

10 Years: Redouble efforts at transformation

Looking further into the next 10 years, we must redouble efforts to transform the sectors, in response to the twin drivers of digitalisation and sustainability.

On digitalisation, airports, airlines and the global aerospace industry are seeking to leverage digitalisation to transform their operations. Singapore is doing likewise. Just last month, I opened the digital aviation corporate lab between Singapore Airlines and the National University of Singapore. Using AI, machine learning and data science, the lab will reshape crew training, improve crew wellness, and transform onboard customer experience. In air traffic management, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is working with universities and other partners, such as MITRE and Thales, to undertake research to improve air traffic management using digital and other tools.

We must also take on longer-term challenges, such as sustainability. Today, aviation accounts for nearly 2% of global emissions. I am glad that global airlines have committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is no silver bullet. We need to take a multi-prong approach to achieve this – including the use of sustainable aviation fuels, optimising flight path and operations, and deploying more energy efficient aircrafts. In Singapore, we are piloting the use of sustainable aviation fuels at Changi Airport. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore also signed an MOU with Airbus to collaborate on sustainable aviation. In addition, Neste is also expanding its refinery in Singapore, to produce renewable jet fuel at a commercial scale. When completed in 2023, the refinery will be able to produce up to 1 million tons of sustainable aviation fuel annually. We welcome more partnerships with all of you here. Over time, Singapore will not only be a global aviation hub, but a sustainable one too.

Beyond: Nurturing deep innovation to reshape our future

Looking even further ahead, we must imagine new possibilities and nurture deep innovation that can reshape the future of aviation. These innovations take time. Take the helicopter. The first practical rotorcraft – the autogyro – was invented in the 1920s. But it was not until the 1940s that helicopters were mass produced. Today they are a key part of the aviation landscape. But not all innovation came to pass. Supersonic air travel was made possible with the Concorde. But cost, safety, noise and other factors did not allow it to scale. It is important that we commit to exploring and experimenting now, and some of these inventions will eventually reshape the aviation landscape in the years ahead.

One possible gamechanger is autonomous aircrafts. We commonly think of autonomous vehicles as self-driving cars, and we do have several AVs operating at Changi Airport for baggage transportation. But these technologies can also be adopted for aviation – initially to improve how we guide and control aircrafts, and eventually, to transport cargo and people around autonomously. Companies are also beginning to develop unmanned traffic management solutions, which could enable the safe operations of unmanned and autonomous aircraft in busy airspaces. It may be many years before autonomous aircrafts take to the skies at scale. But through these early efforts, we can begin to envisage the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead.

Another area is Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing aircrafts, or eVTOL. Volocopter first captured the imagination of many Singaporeans when it flew its prototype eVTOL aircraft over Marina Bay in 2019, just a few hundred metres from where we sit today. To capitalise on the growth of the global eVTOL market , we are growing the Advanced Air Mobility community at Seletar Aerospace Park. We hope to create an enabling ecosystem for a wide range of activities – from R&D, commercialisation, manufacturing, to eventually MRO. To give a boost to this nascent industry, we are exploring the feasibility of the first piloted eVTOL trial in Singapore, possibly along the Greater Southern Waterfront. We will also be working closely with industry partners, including Volocopter and Skyports, to develop use cases and operating frameworks. I welcome other industry partners to join us in this journey.


Let me conclude. The pandemic has brought about unprecedented disruptions for aerospace and aviation. Your resilience, adaptability and determination have shone through in one of the most difficult chapters of aviation history. As we gather today for the Singapore Airshow, we are on the path to recovery. Our efforts will shape the flight path of the aviation and aerospace industry for years to come. I have outlined how Singapore is contributing to the growth of the global aviation and aerospace sectors – in the near term by investing in capabilities and people; over the next 10 years by redoubling our efforts at transformation; and beyond by nurturing deep innovation. To achieve greater impact, we must pull together our collective strength and efforts. I hope that you will find new opportunities for collaboration and expand your networks in the coming week at the Airshow. By working together, we can emerge stronger from this crisis and soar to greater heights.

With that, I declare the Singapore Airshow 2022 open. I wish all of you a pleasant evening. Thank you.