Singapore Airshow: Where Have All the Bizjets Gone?

Beechcraft King Air 200; Bombardier Challenger 300, Challenger 605 and Global Express; Cessna CJ3 and Citation Sovereign; Dassault Falcon 900EX; Eclipse 500; Embraer Legacy 600; Hawker 900XP and Horizon; Gulfstream G150, G200, G450 and G550; Learjet 60XR; and Piaggio Avanti. All on static display at the Singapore Airshow – the first Singapore Airshow, held in 2008, that is. 

How are the mighty business aircraft fallen? A decade of world financial depression; a corruption crackdown in China; coronavirus – and the cumulative result is that this year’s Changi lineup is reduced to the Dassault Falcon 8X, Falcon 2000LXS and HondaJet Elite. Plus, to split hairs, a mockup of the Falcon 6X’s cabin. 

Not that the world’s manufacturers have been idle during the past dozen years. New models have appeared, yet some of them were pulled from this year’s show, almost as chocks were being laid out on the ramp, ready for their arrival. 

France, obviously, earns credit for persevering with the airshow, but some of the equivalent US business jet giants have stayed away. Absent Gulfstream, for example, is currently promoting its G500, all-new G600, record-breaking G650ER, high-performing Gulfstream G550 and super-midsize Gulfstream G280 – not to mention the G700 that was unveiled as a cabin mockup at last October’s NBAA convention in Las Vegas. 

Textron Aviation, another no-show, was expected to have brought the Citation Longitude, which only last September received its FAA type certificate to release it for customer deliveries. The 12-seat twinjet offers 3,500 nm (6,480 km) range at up to 483 kt. (895 km/h). Also available, but slightly older, is the Citation Latitude, a nine-seater with range capability of 2,700 nm (5,000 km). Citation Sovereign, XLS and smaller CJ4 and CJ3 were other potential Cessna exhibits. 

From the remainder of the American continent, Bombardier has pulled out, taking with it the anticipated Global 7500, which it hails as the world’s largest and longest-range purpose-built business jet: 7,700 nm (14,260 km) and 19 passengers at Mach 0.925 on a pair of fuel-efficient GE Passport engines. G7500 has been in service since the end of 2018, but the timetable for an even longer-range, shorter-fuselage G8000 remains to be determined. 

Two further Bombardier jets are the Global 6500 and shorter 5500 – reincarnations of the 6000 and 5000 that were certified by the US authorities only two months ago, fitted with new-technology Rolls-Royce Pearl engines. Also available are the Challenger 350 and smaller 650. 

Bombardier’s absence will at least prevent media questions over its plans for the business aircraft division. After last month’s company profits warning set tongues wagging, there is speculation that a sale to another bizjet company is in the cards. 

From South America, Embraer is here with its E195 airliner, but the expected Praetor 500 light jet is another last-minute absentee. The aircraft would have been a “first” for Singapore, although it is, in truth, a reinvigorated Legacy 450, as first announced a year and a half ago, and paralleled by the Legacy 500-to-Praetor 600 upgrade. 

In the realm of the propeller, Piaggio has scootered off, and declined to show the Avanti. The Italian firm’s aeronautical division has been teetering on a financial precipice for the last couple of years, and would have benefited from exposure to potential customers ahead of the target date of this April for finding a new owner. 

Singapore-based Clermont Group acquired a majority share of Eviation Aircraft last year, but is unlikely to be celebrating that fact at the current airshow, even though its futuristic-looking, electric-powered Alice commuter aircraft was shown here, in model form, two years ago. After unveiling at Paris in June, the Alice prototype was shipped to the US to begin airborne testing, but before it could be flown, it was seriously damaged when it caught fire at Prescott, Arizona, on Jan. 22. 

But it is not all doom and gloom on the Singapore air scene. Down the road from Changi is Seletar, a busy bizav hub, and home to FBO Jet Aviation, where local agents sell and service Bell helicopters and Bombardier jets. With Changi being unable to accept unscheduled demonstration flights, potential customers are being redirected to Seletar to conduct their prepurchase evaluations. 

Could it transpire that more bizav deals are struck at Seletar this week than at the official airshow location?