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What's ahead for airlines and aviation in 2020?

Ahead of the upcoming Singapore Airshow 2020, we share some trends shaping the aviation sector in 2020 and where Singapore fits in.  


With an overall market size of 3.1 billion, Asia Pacific’s aviation sector has been experiencing a 4.7% year-on-year growth, and is set to overtake air travel in North America and Europe by 2035. Amid this rapid growth, what is Singapore doing to advance the aviation industry in 2020?

Singapore has long been a frontrunner in the aviation industry and has been cited as the “Aerospace City of the Future”. It continues to play a key role in accelerating Asia’s aviation growth, largely due to its capabilities in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), strong manufacturing base and skilled workforce.  Moreover, Singapore is investing significantly in the future of aerospace by partnering with global industry experts to tackle the increasingly congested skies, shared by passenger airplanes, military jets and unmanned aircraft.

In 2020, one of the key priorities is to accelerate the development of a next-generation open architecture ATM system to address this challenge. In recent years, Thales and CAAS have signed agreements to collaborate on digital technologies, including accelerating innovations in air traffic management and through growing local expertise in this field.

Another primary area of focus lies in the development of a connected urban airspace management system for unmanned aircraft in Singapore. The initiative is led by the Future Flight Consortium, which comprises a diverse mix of home-grown agencies, educational institutions and multinationals. A key technology enabler of the consortium, Thales co-innovates with local SMEs and startups by providing trusted remote identification and tracking, as well as reliable and secure communications for drones.

The year 2020 will be one of continued growth for Singapore’s aviation sector. Through existing initiatives such as the A*STAR Aerospace Programme, Singapore will continue to strengthen the industry’s value chain by engaging in R&D partnership with leading global commercial aerospace OEMs such as Thales.

To enhance Singapore’s competitiveness as an aviation hub, the government launched the Aerospace Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in 2018, which is expected to add S$4 billion in manufacturing value and create 1,000 new jobs this year. Other initiatives such as the SkillsFuture Study Award for Air Transport have been implemented to improve Singapore’s aviation offerings and capture opportunities for growth.

As the aviation sector evolves and undergoes rapid digitalisation, close partnership with the aerospace ecosystem and global industry players will help Singapore strengthen its attractiveness as an aerospace hub. Such collaborations will encourage regional cooperation and provide better access to growing markets beyond Singapore, deepen the role for companies to develop digital products, and foster a culture where companies can venture to create services locally.

With a growing demand for air travel, what are some of the key opportunities in the region, particularly in Singapore?

Some key opportunities are the technological advancements in areas ranging from air-traffic control, unmanned aircraft, to data analytics and AI, and the growth of the global MRO industry which is currently valued at US$75 billion with an estimated growth of over US$110 billion within the next decade.

By 2037, the Asia Pacific region is expected to dominate the MRO market and become the world's largest spender of aircraft maintenance. Currently, Singapore hosts over 130 aerospace players and is a leading MRO hub, accounting for 25% of Asia’s MRO revenue and 10% of global output.

Thales has witnessed the robust growth of Singapore’s MRO, having expanded its Changi repair facility in 2017. This is the largest of Thales’ three global repair hubs alongside France and the US, and reflects Singapore’s importance as a regional aviation hub.

To date, the facility has increased its repair volume by 30% since it became operational in 2017, with over 40,000 pieces of equipment repaired. Furthermore, Thales is an integral partner to multinational aerospace corporation Airbus, with the manufacturing and repair of key systems such as flight control computers, displays and electrical system for the A350 fleet taking place at its MRO facility in Singapore.

During the Singapore Airshow, we anticipate industry leaders to discuss the challenges in MRO, including aftermarket disruption, the rise of digitalisation, and the need for MRO specialists to upskill as technology advances.

As the aviation industry continues to grow, what are some of the pressing challenges that must be addressed?

As air travel and defence evolve in the age of rapid digitalisation, cybersecuring the skies has never been more critical. Beyond deploying systems and softwares, a deep understanding of the techniques employed by cyberattackers is key to detecting and anticipating future attacks. Thales draws from its expertise across various segments to offer mitigation actions, and end-to-end defence and security solutions for the aerospace industry.

Another key challenge is achieving sustainable aviation globally. Last year, 2019, the spotlight was on climate change. As air travel is responsible for nearly 3% of all global carbon emissions – and is expected to grow at a rate of 3.5% per year. Industry leaders and governments must take into consideration the industry’s effects on the climate and adopt environmentally friendly practices.

Thales recognises that it has a role to play for action on climate disruption and will continue to implement its plan of action for a low-carbon future. Thales is a founding member of Clean Sky, an initiative to accelerate the adoption of new greener design practices by an industry which traditionally has long design cycles and product lifetimes.

What will be Thales’ key priorities at the upcoming Singapore Airshow?

Thales is excited to be back again at Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event. This year, we are keeping a big focus on digital solutions that are keeping skies safe and cyber-secured. From airport management and the use of biometrics in airport security to nose-to-tail solutions in the cockpit, the use of smart technologies like artificial intelligence and harnessing Big Data are all in display at the Airshow.  


Serene Koh - South East Asia Communications
+65 65 94 68 98