When after 13 shows Reed Exhibitions moved Asian Aerospace from its home in Singapore to a new site in Hong Kong in 2007 many eyebrows were raised. Not only did relocating to Chinese territory mean excluding the lucrative defence sector, but it opened the way for the island state to rebrand the old event as the all-sector Singapore air show in its established calendar slot - quarter one in even years.
The line from Reed Exhibitions - a sister company of Flight International's parent Reed Business Information - was that China was the fastest-growing market in Asia, both in terms of its airlines and emerging industrial base, and that the semi-independent international hub of Hong Kong provided the ideal gateway both to the People's Republic as well as the rest of the region.
The first new-look Asian Aerospace International Expo & Congress was a limited success, but - despite the global downturn - Reed Exhibitions has high hopes for this year's show, which again takes place from 8-10 September at the AsiaWorld Expo next to the territory's international airport. There are big name debutants, most notably new Chinese industrial combine Comac, which is developing the country's first indigenous airliners, the ARJ21 regional jet and Comac 919 narrowbody, with the four major civil airframers and engine makers CFM and MTU also present. Other exhibitors include Air France/KLM Engineering, AMECO, Goodrich, HAECO and Lufthansa Technik.
Securing China's aerospace heavyweight as an exhibitor has been the biggest breakthrough for the show in 2009, says Richard Thiele, the show's sales director. "It makes Asian Aerospace highly relevant not just to those hoping to sell to China's airlines, but it opens up the long-awaited Chinese manufacturing supply chain to Western partners."
Although Airbus and Embraer have established final assembly lines in China and several tier one manufacturers such as General Electric have outsourced production there, an emerging Chinese aerospace industry creates opportunities for established players to influence the power brokers and win major supply deals, maintains Thiele. "The fact remains that if you want to do business with the Chinese you have to build a relationship with them," he says.
Again, Asian Aerospace will be an umbrella event for smaller trade symposiums, too small to attract large numbers of exhibitors or delegates in their own right, but benefiting from the halo effect of the larger gathering. As well as Aircraft Interiors Expo, Asia Pacific Aviation Training and Air Freight Asia, this year's show includes Asian Business Aviation, which helps fill a slot vacated by the former ABACE, a spin-off from the established NBAA and EBACE conventions in the USA and Europe.
Although, unlike ABACE, Asian Business Aviation is not endorsed by the National Business Aviation Association, many of the big NBAA stalwarts will have a presence, hoping to tap into the long-term potential of the still-nascent private aviation market in and around China. The event is backed by the Asian Business Aviation Association, whose chairman Chuck Woods says the region's population, economic activity and the need for executive transport to cover distances between key locations makes north Asia the next big growth market for business aviation.
"To do business with the Chinese you have to build a relationship with them"
Asian Aerospace sales director
A static display - reachable by shuttle bus from the exhibition itself - will have 16 business aircraft (up from seven last time) from Airbus, Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft, Jet Aviation, Piaggio and TAG Aviation. This year the outdoor area will include air-conditioned chalets for the first time.
Again, a three-day congress takes place alongside the exhibition and the organisers expect to attract 300 delegates. Speakers include Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, Tony Tyler, chief executive of Cathay Pacific, Norman Lo, director general of Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department, and Naresh Goyal of India's Jet Airways. Each day has its own theme: "Futurewatch", engine technologies and infrastructure.
Thiele is predicting there will be 10,000 visitors to this year's show, with 3,000 from mainland China, 4,000 from Hong Kong itself and 3,000 from elsewhere. Although the event may not yet be in the league of Paris, Farnborough or even Dubai or Berlin, Asian Aerospace's niche is that it offers access to the world's fastest-growing aviation market without being a Chinese show.
Too often language, visa and logistics issues associated with attending an event in the People's Republic have prevented air shows there establishing themselves among the global aerospace community. As for the future of the event in Hong Kong: Reed Exhibitions has already signed to host the show at the AsiaWorld Expo in 2011.