Asian Aerospace - one of the biggest global air show brands - has reinvented itself as a civil aviation congress in the heart of the world's fastest-growing airline market

There will be no ear-splitting fast-jet displays at this year's Asian Aerospace, no delegations of military officers or members of the public, not even a chalet line to offer air-conditioned refuge from the humidity outside. The Asia-Pacific region's biggest air show - held for years in the muggy surrounds of Singapore's international airport - has relocated some 2,500km (1,550 miles) north to a convention centre in Hong Kong, and reinvented itself as a congress focused entirely on civil aviation.

While the airline sector is growing frenetically throughout most of Asia, it is in China itself that the biggest demand for airliners and aviation services is likely to be over the next 20 years. Deliveries of airliners are likely to average 2.8 a week for the next 20 years, with domestic passenger numbers alone predicted to rise from 220 million today to 950 million by 2020. Boeing expects the wider Asia-Pacific region to account for almost three in 10 of all new aircraft deliveries over the next 20 years. The show's location - at the airport convention centre in one of the world's hubs for global trade and aviation - puts it on the doorstep of the Chinese market and also within a few hours of most Asian cities.

Convention centre

The event, which takes place from 3-6 September, is organised by Flight International's sister company Reed Exhibitions - which broke with its previous partner, the Singapore government, just before the last Asian Aerospace in February 2006. Although there will be a small static display of mostly business jets, the action largely takes place in the air-conditioned surroundings of the convention centre.

Spanning four halls, there will be a main Asian Aerospace exhibition - with most of the major names in aerospace manufacturing represented - and three smaller events, covering air freight, aircraft interiors and training. Alongside these will be a three-day congress, organised by Flight, with a different theme each day: Monday's will be air transport strategy, Tuesday's air transport operations and Wednesday's aerospace technology [see box]. The Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium and a series of seminars being held as part of Air Freight Asia will run at the same time.

Although it joins the handful of mostly biennial big shows around the world competing for exhibitors, delegates and press coverage, Asian Aerospace is not selling itself as an air show. In fact, the model is more the hugely successful National Business Aviation Association's annual convention in the USA than Dubai, Farnborough or Paris. "What we are doing is creating a 21st century aerospace event," says Asian Aerospace's sales and marketing chief Clive Richardson. "It's all about business. That's why the congress element is so significant. Companies know they are going there to meet movers and shakers in the region in a convivial, business environment, rather than the random surroundings of an air show. People have bought into the rationale and are looking forward to a different model."

A380 prospects

Most of the delegates will be from Asia, with pre-registered names representing 60 countries, says Richardson. The profile is roughly 40% operators - including executives from operations, finance and marketing, as well as pilots - with most of the rest representatives of manufacturers and service providers. Some 500 exhibitors will take up 23,000m2 (250,000ft2) of floorspace, with around a dozen aircraft in the static display. These are likely to include the A380, which Airbus is pushing strongly at the north Asian market, after reasonable success in South-East Asia. Although China Southern, India's Kingfisher and Korean Air have all ordered the superjumbo, the European manufacturer sees China particularly as a huge potential A380 marketplace.

Business and general aviation manufacturers Bombardier, Cirrus, Dassault, Liberty and Hawker Beechcraft are all expected to have aircraft there. Gulfstream may join that list.

The absence of a defence element - a major component of the old Asian Aerospace - has hit exhibitor numbers, admits Richardson. "Clearly the show is not going to be as big because we are missing a number of companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman who deliver big acreage," he says. However, by creating a more civil aviation-focused event, with the added value of a high-level conference, the hope is that more senior airline executives - who tend to shun traditional air shows like Farnborough and Paris - will be attracted. Rather than battling with traffic and security queues in the open sun, delegates will be able to reach the convention centre by a fast rail link from downtown Hong Kong or the airport itself. "That aspect of air shows is not usually particularly enjoyable," says Richardson. "The intention is to make the whole event as user-friendly as possible."

Source: Flight International