Singapore Airshow 2016

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Changi Exhibition Centre, Singapore, 16 – 21 February 2016

Held every two years this event is promoted as Asia’s largest airshow though it is unclear what unit of measurement qualifies this statement. I imagine the Chinese and Malaysian shows might disagree. It certainly attracts the major players but, being held beside a major international airport, the ‘airshow’ aspect is severely diminished with flying limited to around two hours on three trade days and two 90 minute slots on the weekend public days.

The venue is on the north-east perimeter of the airport utilising one ramp, one exhibition hall and the current military runway. Flying is over the open sea with no view of take-off or landing. On the public days there were three items in each slot, unfortunately this year the Friday to Sunday was overcast and fairly wet though it it did not keep the crowds away as tickets must be pre-purchased and shuttle buses provide access from the Singapore Expo site south of Changi International. There are surcharges for parking and taxi arrivals.

As with many of the larger trade events, some static items departed before the public days, no doubt to allow valuable development flying though, given the premium prices for these events (particularly Farnborough and Paris) it is the public who miss out; especially if star items have been featured in the media build up on the trade days.

The Singapore Air Force did attend though in a limited capacity with only an Apache and F-15SG in the flying display. France was billed as the lead nation for 2016 though the Airbuses left early and a sole Rafale flew a spirited display. It as left the two Falcon business jets in static to fly the flag and a welcome Malaysian A-400 in static. The only display team was the Korean Black Knights with their T-50s as the Singapore Air Force team is not kept current every year.

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Star turn in the flying was a Malaysian Air Force Su-30 Flanker which still managed the familiar slow motion antics even in poor weather. The US military made their outreach felt with a flying F-16, two Super Hornets and KC-135 from Japan and a Hawaiian based C-17 whose sunday slot was filled by a Minot based B-52H making a single pass. Most welcome were a pair of Alaska based F-22s from Elmendorf AFB.

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On the public days it was evident that the locals would queue for hours for a selfie in the cockpit of anything. This was patiently managed but, for the photographers, the sea of people was a serious issue. In the exhibit halls, overcrowding and a lack of seating was unfortunate for families, perched on the perimeters of comfortable display stands with carpets and seats abandoned by the trade who had nearly all gone by Thursday night.

With Changi planning to take over the eastern military runway for a new terminal in a few years and the disruption to commercial traffic during the flying slots, one wonders if this show is sustainable at its present site. Singapore is undoubtedly a major player in world aerospace and deserves a bigger showcase.

Peter Davison

About Peter Davison

Peter Davison is an aviation author and editor from the United Kingdom.

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