A useful measure of success for a country is not necessarily simply the level of investment sourced within its own boundaries, but perhaps equally important is how much the inward flow of investment shows a broader base for confidence in the future. Chris Long provides an update from Singapore.
For the last couple of decades the determination of Singapore to make a large commitment to building infrastructure to support aviation has been obvious. Not only has this been directed at Changi airport - arguably the best in the world if popular surveys are to be believed, but the national airline - Singapore Airlines - also waves the quality flag very effectively. In parallel with those high-visibility measures, other projects have come to fruition. The build-up of the amount of MRO work, and suppliers who deliver it, together with the increasing size of the training capability, shows that Singapore (population approx. 5.5 million) has been very active in expanding its capabilities.
This drive to vigorously grow civil aviation, coupled with an extremely favourable geographical position and a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, has encouraged very significant foreign investment. The stable political environment is also attractive and reassuring for those who are looking to the long-term.
A challenge remains, however, as the modest population base means that there is not an infinite supply of motivated young people who wish to devote themselves to a career in aviation. Part of the answer to that situation is to foster that interest through education in its broadest sense, and the presence of over 3,000 high school students at a STEM Campus made available during the Singapore Air Show was witness to the fact that if the doors are opened many more will come to better understand what is on offer.
Future Demand Once again Boeing took the opportunity of addressing the aviation world during the Singapore Air Show in order to update the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Asia-Pacific Current Market Outlook. Whilst there was little change to earlier forecasts, this confirmed the large scale of demand for aircraft in this region, reaching 3,750 new aircraft in the period 2015-2034. The orders reflect the continuing growth of the LCCs and the demand for air transport - both new route combinations and increased frequency account for the need for larger fleets. As the demand for travel to Miramar increases, so too does the market for aircraft to service that requirement. Bearing in mind that the existing fleet, which includes many low-time hulls, will remain in service alongside these new arrivals, there is clearly going to be a continuing major demand for crews across all disciplines.
Training Facilities One Singaporean player which has made huge strides in expanding training capability is ST Aerospace Academy (STAA). STAA was an early adopter of MPL, and having witnessed the success of this path for ab initio pilot training, STAA is wholeheartedly committed to this process. Kevin Khoo, president, notes however, that the assessment and reputation of MPL has been adversely impacted by the poor results obtained by training organisations which chose the minimum syllabus and dated equipment to deliver this style of training.
Now that there is a track record for those MPL graduates, and in particular those who have progressed to command, Khoo insists that there are key benefits which are to be had from this process. One of the lessons learnt is that it is essential to select appropriate instructors. Experienced airline pilots are at a premium, and are (comparatively) expensive as instructors, but are absolutely invaluable. The primary attributes which they bring are as a role model, which demonstrates the ideal enthusiasm and attitudes essential for the career, and a profound understanding and experience for the instruction in Threat and Error Management. It is in this latter factor where there is simply no substitute for the experience from which real examples of threat mitigation can be cited and discussed. The soft skills of operating are so much better taught by high-time experienced airline instructors who know what the end game is.
One other point which becomes clear is that within the close cooperation between regulator, ATO and airline, the ongoing modifications to SOPs for the airline must be immediately integrated into the training to ensure the smoothest transition for ATO to airline service. On a final comment on the present training, Khoo has been astonished at the capabilities of the new generation of students who have adapted so rapidly to the technology of the new generation of aircraft. These digital natives demonstrate their situational awareness within the virtual world of the aircraft operating systems in a way that is a step beyond that shown by digital adopters, and bodes well for future safer operations.
Benefiting from the broader skills of ST Aerospace, STAA is developing a virtual reality training device, which Khoo believes is particularly well suited to that demographic. It does not require the full complexity of the traditional training suites, but is both an attractive and effective training option for this generation of new pilots.
Major Players What is perhaps the most significant development since the last CAT article on Singapore (see CAT 4/2012) is the evolution of Seletar Aerospace Park from a project ,to a thriving regional centre. Not only have the major aircraft OEMs set up shop nearby, but all the principle engine manufacturers have made this their base to reach out to the Asian customers.
The Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC) (see CAT 5/2015) is nearing completion, and will officially open on 18th April, thereafter providing training to the initial 14 customers who have already signed up and will be open for business to many others. Yann Lardet, general manager, is keen to get going and energise this new facility, where training for the A350 is already underway. He sees this as an opportunity to properly address the issue of selecting really experienced instructors (10,000 hrs +) to ensure the quality of training, a major challenge within the industry which he believes must be clearly addressed.
Boeing have had a training centre at Changi since 2006. Pat Curtin, senior manager at the Boeing Flight Services Campus, is happy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this facility during Boeing’s Centenary year. It is no surprise that most of the customers come from the APAC region, but the standardised wet or dry training can be delivered to any global Boeing customer. The wide geographical range covered is represented by the 18 different national authorities which have issued approval for the courses. Not only do flight crew undertake type and recurrent training, but the centre also features one of the only two Boeing structure repair workshops, (the other is in Miami) where maintenance teams can become familiar with the composite structure used in the Boeing 787 aircraft. One additional capability is the 787 door trainer for the cabin crew.
What is striking is the creation of aircraft engine manufacturing facilities here, where Pratt & Whitney has set up a unit to manufacture the latest technology away from their parent base. In addition Turbomeca, the specialist manufacturer of helicopter engines, has opened a maintenance and training facility at Seletar where training is now available, not only for their own specialists, but also for the customers’ technicians.
Rolls Royce, too, has set up a Regional Training Centre (RTC) which caters for a wide range of disciplines from IT management and leaderships as well as technical skills including those in the Civil Aerospace sector. The RTC is approved for EASA Part 147 training and with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, offers international and national accredited training programmes. The training aids include the latest aero engine assembly simulators.
Singapore Air Show Although many countries were represented at the recent Singapore Air Show it was characterised by the major presence of the USA and France, which both had a large number of industry exhibitors and made big contributions to the flying displays. The significance of Singapore as a concentration of aviation assets has not gone unnoticed, and confidently points to the continuing importance of the country as a major focus for aviation in the region.