Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Airshow 2024 Opening Ceremony on 19 February 2024.

Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Airshow 2024 Opening Ceremony on 19 February 2024.

Minister Chee Hong Tat,
Experia Chairman, Mr Ravinder Singh,
Chiefs of Defence Forces, Service Chiefs,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening, and a warm welcome to the 9th edition of the Singapore Airshow.  

When we met two years ago, we were still in the tentative early days of our recovery from COVID-19. 

I spoke about the positive long-term prospects for the aviation and aerospace industries, and Singapore’s commitment to invest in new capabilities, and in our workers. 

Two years on, I am glad that the Airshow has returned to full scale, with no restrictions. 

We welcome 50,000 trade attendees and over 1,000 participating companies from 50 countries. 

With the restoration of Public Days, we expect to welcome an additional 60,000 visitors.

As Ravinder mentioned, audiences will be delighted by the exciting line-up of aerial display performances by the Republic of Singapore Air Force and our friends from all over the world. 


Positive trajectory, with caveats

The buzz and energy around this year’s Airshow is reflective of the strong global rebound of the aviation and aerospace industries. 

Post-COVID, global connectivity has been revived through leisure and business travel. 

International passenger traffic has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

New aircraft orders have hit a 5-year high of 3,850, an increase of more than 90% compared to the previous year. 

Aerospace activities have ramped up in tandem – the global MRO market has grown 20% year-on-year in 2023.

Beyond the rebound, the prospects for aviation and aerospace are positive.
International passenger traffic is projected to more than double by 2040. 

Aerospace MRO is likewise expected to grow 33% by 2033. 

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to be a strong driver. It is home to some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, and a growing middle class with increasing demand for air travel. 

APAC passenger traffic is projected to grow at 4.5% per annum over the next two decades, outpacing all other regions. 

By 2033, APAC is expected to have the largest fleet size – almost 40% of the global fleet. 

That said, there are structural shifts in the post-COVID world that we need to address, in order to unlock the industry’s potential. 

One, geopolitical uncertainty has extended and deepened the supply chain disruptions that many industries faced during COVID. 

War, economic protectionism, and strategic competition over science and technology are symptomatic of deeper shifts in the global economic and geopolitical landscape. 

The global order backlog of passenger aircrafts is at a record high of 15,900 at end-2023, and airlines are grappling with delayed deliveries. 

Aerospace MRO activities are hindered by materials or parts shortages, compliance issues, shipping delays and rising costs. 

We therefore need to rethink supply chains so that the aviation and aerospace industries can remain resilient and serve as the backbone for global travel and connectivity. 

Two, like other industries, aviation and aerospace need to hasten their decarbonisation efforts. 

Aviation contributes around 2% of global carbon emissions today. Given its robust growth trajectory, it is critical to green the industry, and decarbonising flights must be a priority, to align with COP28’s commitment to transition away from fossil fuels.

At the same time, we must also invest in developing cleaner technology and greener aircrafts. 

Finally, we must pay attention to building capabilities and developing the talent pool, to unlock aviation and aerospace’s growth prospects. 

Boeing has forecasted that the industry will need 2.3 million new aviation and aerospace personnel in the next 20 years. 

This represents significant good jobs in the pipeline, but if these cannot be met, aviation and aerospace growth will be constrained.


Driving Transformation through a Strong Ecosystem

Taken together, supply chains, sustainability and talent development are key focus areas for global aviation and aerospace transformation. 

There are immediate challenges to address, but we must also set our sights on the medium term and make the necessary investments today. 

The Airshow is a good opportunity to meet with stakeholders across the ecosystem, exchange notes, and identify new opportunities for collaboration.  

Singapore is always happy to serve as a convening platform. It is reflective of the ecosystem that we have built up here over the years. This makes us well-placed to  contribute to the transformation of the aviation and aerospace industries.

Allow me to elaborate. 

Today, supply chain resilience is top-of-mind for aviation and aerospace companies. 

Singapore is a supply chain management hub, from which companies orchestrate regional and global supply chains. We can serve companies seeking to refresh their supply chain strategies to achieve diversification and growth. 

Specifically for the industry, Singapore’s advanced manufacturing capabilities form a strong base of suppliers for aerospace companies. 

We have almost 3,000 precision engineering companies here, many of whom supply parts, automation solutions and technical services to the aviation and aerospace industries and beyond. 

We actively support our enterprises to supply and enable the aerospace industry’s growth, including expanding the capabilities of suppliers who traditionally serve the semiconductor and medtech industries.  

Strengthening companies’ supply chain resilience is but one specific outcome. What Singapore can offer to support aviation and aerospace’s growth ambitions are our innovative capacity, infrastructure, and talent, tied together by a strong commitment to sustainability. 

Singapore continues to be a choice location for aerospace companies. Our aerospace output has outpaced the global recovery, first exceeding pre-pandemic levels in Mar 2022, then achieving 16% year-on-year growth in 2023. 

We expect 2024 to be another strong year. 

Our partners share this optimism – since the last Airshow, Singapore has attracted over 10 new aerospace projects, with committing to invest more than S$750mil over the next 3 to 5 years. 

For example, RTX’s Pratt & Whitney is expanding their engine centre here to better support the Geared TurboFan engine fleet and demand for MRO services. 

I look forward to more companies sharing their plans over this week. 

Global aerospace companies like RTX, GE Aerospace, Rolls Royce and Thales have chosen to site their leading R&D and innovation centres in Singapore to tap on our innovation ecosystem. 

I earlier cited our efforts to pull local enterprises in to strengthen supply chains for global aerospace companies. This exemplifies Singapore’s proactive and collaborative model, where our agencies lean forward to mobilise alignment across research institutes, global companies, and local suppliers.

CAAS has set up the International Centre for Aviation Innovation, which will pool expertise and foster partnerships across governments, industry and research institutes in areas like optimising air traffic management and decarbonising air travel. 

The Smart Manufacturing Joint Lab set up by our Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) with Rolls Royce and SAESL has developed and deployed new technological solutions that resulted in total cost savings of S$6mil to date for the companies’ manufacturing and MRO operations here. 

I am pleased to announce that JTC and Enterprise Singapore will launch the Aerospace Open Innovation Challenge, to drive innovation and partnerships in the areas of sustainability, productivity, and digitalisation. 

With local companies like ST Engineering and global ones like Airbus and GE Aerospace participating, this Challenge will provide an excellent platform for Singapore-based SMEs and startups to pitch promising solutions for co-development and test-bedding. 

To enable more aviation and aerospace companies to tap on and grow with our innovative ecosystem, we will be expanding our world-class infrastructure. 

Today, Seletar Aerospace Park is a leading aerospace industry park in the region. 

We completed construction of JTC aeroSpace Three in 2022, providing “plug and play” factory solutions for advanced aerospace manufacturing and MRO activities. 

Demand has been so robust that we will be building JTC aeroSpace Four, to be completed by 2027. This will add 11,000 sqm of space, and a 25% increase of standard factory units. 

Seletar’s expansion will go hand-in-hand with developments in Changi, where passenger traffic at Changi Airport is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels this year. 

Changi Airport Terminal 5, when it becomes operational by the mid-2030s, will strengthen Singapore’s position as a key air hub serving the region and beyond. 

Adjacent to T5 will be the new Changi East Industrial Zone, which will increase our cargo handling capacity by 80% to around 5.4 mil tonnes per year, and provide new spaces for MRO activities. 

Growth must be powered by the right talent and capabilities. Our Singapore education institutions work closely with the industry to grow the talent pipeline. 

Airport and airline companies here are looking to fully restore their workforce to pre-pandemic levels by this year. 

Singapore’s aerospace employment is already close to pre-pandemic levels, with companies planning to hire 2,500 more employees over the next 3 to 5 years to expand operations. 

Our young people are keen to take on jobs in the industry. Our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) produce 1,800 aviation- and aerospace-related fresh graduates annually. 

Some then take on Work-Study pathways, which are tailored programmes by IHLs and companies to upskill workers through a combination of classroom learning and structured on-the-job training. 

We go even further upstream to excite young students about the industry through the Airshow’s AeroCampus. The fourth edition this year includes tailored showcase and hands-on STEM workshops. 

Aviation and aerospace companies also seek mid-career professionals from other industries to take on good jobs. 

Through Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme, nearly 5,000 individuals and more than 70 aviation and aerospace companies have benefitted over the last 5 years. 


Sustainability at the core

I have spoken about what we can to do to unlock the growth potential of the aviation and aerospace industries – by addressing today’s supply chain constraints, while also investing in innovation, infrastructure, and talent. 

Underpinning all of this work must be a commitment to sustainability. 

I started out by talking about the importance of greening the aviation and aerospace industries, so that its robust growth prospects are powered by decarbonisation and sustainability. 

As a small island nation-state, Singapore’s severe carbon constraints drive our commitment to decarbonise across all industries, and our investments to enable this through our research, innovation and enterprise ecosystem.

To be a leading and credible air hub, we must therefore lean forward to push for a green transformation. 

CAAS set up a S$50mil Aviation Sustainability Programme to provide funding for sustainable aviation projects. 

Earlier today, Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat launched the Singapore Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint, which sets out our decarbonisation roadmap to reach net zero for domestic and international aviation emissions by 2050. 

In the near term, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will play an important role in the decarbonisation of international aviation. 

Singapore is home to the world’s largest production facility for SAF. Neste’s Singapore Refinery produces up to 1 million tonnes of SAF per annum, serving both regional and global customers. 

To uplift SAF, Singapore will set a national target for flights departing Singapore to use 1% SAF from 2026 onwards. 

We are one of the first countries in the APAC region to make this commitment, and hope to see other countries follow suit soon. 

Beyond SAF, green hydrogen and electrification of aircraft hold promise for a more sustainable aviation industry, even if these are still some way from adoption and commercialisation. 

CAAS, Airbus, Changi Airport Group and Linde recently concluded a technical feasibility study on liquid hydrogen adoption and its infrastructure requirements for aviation. 

Electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could be a new engine of growth for mobility, and we are encouraging eVTOL companies to leverage Singapore’s ecosystem to undertake R&D, manufacturing and MRO in this nascent field. 

CAAS initiated the first ever meeting of APAC regulators on Advanced Air Mobility and Unmanned Aircrafts Systems last November, to foster collaborations to leverage these technologies safely and effectively. 

With a combination of government-led effort and industry-driven transformation, I am confident that Singapore can serve as a leading example of sustainable aviation growth, and provide useful ideas that others can adopt in their own sustainability journeys. 


Let me conclude by reiterating my confidence that the aviation and aerospace industries will drive growth, create good jobs, and connect peoples and geographies in the coming years. 

To achieve this, we must support companies in strengthening their supply chain resilience in the immediate term, while deepening innovative capacities and growing our talent pipeline to enable the industry’s green transformation. 

Singapore is committed to do our part by investing in these areas, so that we can better partner you in driving the next bound of growth and connectivity.

With this, I declare the Singapore Airshow 2024 open, and wish all of you a productive week ahead. 

Thank you. 


DPM Heng Swee Keat, Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Airshow 2024 Opening Ceremony on 19 February 2024. PROME MINISTER'S OFFICE SINGAPORE.