Eurocopter executives hope to have a replacement Tiger combat helicopter flying in today's display after the original craft destined for Asian Aerospace '98 crashed in Australia only days before the start of the show.
Executives at Changi say they had to move "incredibly quickly" to cut through red tape which threatened to leave them without a Tiger on display. A second aircraft was transported here by air from Germany.
The accident happened as a Eurocopter test pilot carried out a demonstration flight with a representative from the Australian Army in northern Queensland.
Both escaped serious injury when the aircraft crashed and was destroyed by fire during its final test flight in the country.
An official air accident investigation into the incident has not yet been completed but Eurocopter says it is 99% certain that the crash was a result of "pilot overload".
Eurocopter is pushing the Tiger as a potential answer to the Australian Army's requirement for an armed reconnaissance helicopter to replace its fleet of Bell Iroquois helicopters. The order is expected to be for about 25 aircraft.
Potential bidders for the contract are likely to be asked to register their interest in May, with the Tiger up against stiff competition from a number of aircraft including Denel's Rooivalk attack helicopter and Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow Olivier Lambert, Eurocopter's vice-president for Asia-Pacific, says the company was determined to find a way of getting a Tiger to the show.
"It would have been a blow to us if we hadn't been able to give potential customers a first-hand look at the helicopter. This is an important market for us and we are delighted to be here in Singapore."
The other main prospect for the Tiger in this region is the Republic of Singapore Air Force's need to acquire an attack helicopter capability. Executives say they have a continuing dialogue with the Singaporea government.
The Tiger development programme is 90% complete, says Eurocopter, which expects the first production order for 160 aircraft later this year. Half will go to the French Army, with the remaining 80 destined for the German Army.
The total requirement for the Franco-German armed forces is said to be 427 units.
On a more general note, Jean-Francois Bigay, Eurocopter president and chief executive officer, says 1998 will be a very important year for the company: "Last year we achieved good market share with more than 40% of the civil market and a strong performance in the military sector.
"In the next 12 months we will be looking to improve our domestic sales and we aim to see them reach 20-25% of total turnover."
Source: Flight Daily News