• The PLAAF Ba Yi demonstration team came despite Singapore’s ban on travel from China.
Nigel Pittaway
    The PLAAF Ba Yi demonstration team came despite Singapore’s ban on travel from China. Nigel Pittaway

The biennial Singapore Airshow is normally a must-attend event for companies wishing to do business in the Asia-Pacific region - but not in 2020.

Despite reassurances by organisers Experia Events, the 2020 airshow kicked off on February 11 with attendance figures well-down on previous events, due almost exclusively to concerns about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – or Covid-19, as it is now officially known.

Singapore is the second-most affected country behind China itself and the risk was deemed too great by a significant number of western aerospace companies, including big names such as Bombardier, CAE, Honeywell, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Textron (including Bell). Other companies, such as Airbus, Boeing and Saab chose to significantly reduce their presence.

In a pre-show briefing on Sunday, managing director of Experia Events Leck Chet Lam said the organisers were acting in accordance with Singapore Government guidelines, which had seen the threat level increased to ‘Dorscon Orange’ level.

Accordingly, Experia will reduce the number of visitors on the public days by more than half and has already implemented mandatory temperature checks for anyone attending the event. Lam said that more than 70 companies had withdrawn from the show as a result and the numbers of trade day visitors appeared well down on the 45,000 predicted by organisers.

Highlight of the very much reduced flying display at the show was the first Singapore appearance of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) demonstration team Ba Yi (August 1st). However even this appearance was mired in controversy, with organisers only publicly announcing the team’s participation after it had touched down in Singapore shortly before the show opened– seemingly at odds with the Singapore Government’s ban on travel from mainland China.

Lam said that 45 aircraft would be taking part in the aircraft static display, yet only 30 were present on opening day, leaving wide swathes of empty space on the tarmac.

However, Singapore 2020 was not all doom and gloom: many exhibitors reinforced their commitment to the local market and the Australian presence included the Team Defence Australia industry team which, with around 35 local businesses represented, enjoyed a significant footprint in the exhibition centre.

Other highlights included flying displays by a US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor and US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II – both making their flying debut in Singapore – and a large Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) presence in the static display.

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