Rising helicopter demand lifts Singapore's MRO sector

Helicopters have become increasingly popular in Singapore, with both governments and corporates turning to them to meet logistics needs. The growing demand is giving a lift to Singapore’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) sector.

Industry experts have said they expect the global civil helicopter fleet in Asia Pacific to grow by more than 20 per cent annually in the next decade, compared with less than 10 per cent for civilian aircraft. “When you look at the micro level and you really get into what’s driving our business – it’s really national security for the military side, and to a large extent oil and gas activities throughout the region,” said Mr Christophe Nurit, regional director (Asia) for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. “Singapore is a fantastic place when it comes to aviation. The legacy here is fantastic. The industry in Singapore for aviation and aeronautics has been growing tremendously over the last few years.”

Besides growing demand from the oil and gas sector, regional governments have also been buying helicopters to help in areas such as law enforcement and disaster relief. "What I believe is contributing to the growth of helicopters in the Asia-Pacific is governments are recognising that natural disasters, disaster recovery can only be served by helicopters given the difficult terrain over which they operate, in the vertical lift capabilities,” said Mr Sameer A Rehman, managing director, Asia-Pacific, at Bell Helicopters. “So as governments are putting more money into serving their citizens and developing national recovery plans, Bell Helicopters has found its way to be a part of that segment.”

Experts have said helicopters are particularly useful in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, where there are many small islands and few runways to accommodate fixed-wing aircraft.

Meanwhile, spending on MRO for helicopters is forecast to grow by around 15 per cent over the next 10 years, more than the 5 per cent for the aviation industry as a whole. Industry experts have said this will have spillover benefits for Singapore, the region's main centre for MRO. Sikorsky, for instance, is considering setting up a logistics centre in Singapore. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, the MRO industry hired 19,800 people and accounted for S$8.7 billion in output in 2013. The growing use of helicopters in Asia is also creating other spin-offs. Event organiser Experia Events said it plans to launch a new helicopter trade show in Singapore in 2017, with support from key industry players like Bell and Airbus. Called Rotorcraft Asia, it will only be the second in Asia after another show that is held biennially in Tianjin, China. It is slated to be held in April 18 to 20, 2017, and it is set to feature an exhibition, conference, static aircraft display and a line-up of customer demonstrations.

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