top of page
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • X
  • Youtube
  • Writer's pictureMalcolm Lu

Singapore Airshow 2020

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

An insight to the backend 24/7 rush that makes the Singapore Airshow a successful one, enter Apron Operations


The Singapore Airshow, a biannual event that has played a strong part in marking Singapore as a global leader in hosting MICE events is in its 7th installment. The Singapore Airshow has also, in the years past its infancy, brought along the reputation of being the largest Aviation Exhibition event in the Asian continent, significantly raising the bar for all airshows taking place abroad. It was a great honor to have been able to be a member of the Apron Operations team at SATS earlier this year at the Singapore Airshow 2020.

Before DORSCON Orange

Airshow Operations

Being a member of the apron operations

team has brought along multiple benefits, such as being able to interact with aircraft from all over the world, while also having the chance to photograph some of the static display aircraft that haven’t had barriers put up on yet, an experience not all gets to enjoy.

Part of my job involved preparing AHANs (Aircraft Handling Advice Notice) and GenDecs (General Declarations) for inbound and outbound airshow aircraft. It also meant I have had the privilege to be able to visit Changi Airbase (East) to assist and be a liaison to aircrew from all around the world.

In the days leading to the airshow, we learned that multiple exhibitors were pulling out of the Airshow at the last minute due to the COVID-19 situation in the Asian region. Among the many exhibitors that pulled out were aircraft manufacturer giants Airbus and Boeing.

The Build-up to the Airshow

Embraer's E195-E2 Profit Hunter

In the days leading to the airshow, we learned that multiple exhibitors were pulling out of the Airshow at the last minute due to the COVID-19 situation in the Asian region. Among the many exhibitors that pulled out were aircraft manufacturer giants Airbus and Boeing.

Flight Cancellations

After DORSCON Orange

Boeing was initially supposed to fly their Boeing 777-200 eco-Demonstrator but canceled its plans and pulled out just as the DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) level was raised from yellow to orange in Singapore. Airbus too was supposed to send the Airbus A350-900 in the carbon fiber livery, however, it did not depart Toulouse for Singapore and missed the cutoff arrival slot of 0600hrs on the 9th of February. Reducing SADA (Singapore Airshow Display Area) to an almost desolate land.

As aircraft after aircraft pulled out of the airshow, more and more columns showing aircraft arrival details in the arrival board at the SATS Flight Control Office had the word

“Cancelled” written in its remarks. Our spirits, however, were not dampened by the cancellations as there was already a whole host of aircraft already on static display at SADA.

During the Airshow

My work mostly revolves around the world of passenger services.

At the airport, I would usually be tasked with scanning boarding passes and acting as a liaison with the purser and cockpit crew at the gate. However, things were slightly different at the airshow as I was now a vehicle commander. My job was to ferry the organizers to the respective control towers at both CAB(E) and Changi Airport to ensure the smooth operation of the flying display. Armed with a walkie talkie, a designated van, and a driver, our job was simple, yet of utmost importance. Ensure the tower observers made it to the control tower ahead of schedule every day. This was essential as if the observers were to arrive even a minute late, Changi Airport and its surrounding airspace would not be closed in time and would cause the entire timeline to be sent into shambles.

Moreover, we were not always rostered to accompany the organizers to and from the control towers every day. On some days, we were not rostered to be on vehicle duty, but instead, assigned to the secondary backup transports where we were allowed to view the flying display from the show center and from the roof of the chalet.

After the Airshow

Bangkok Air's ATR72 Boring towed to CAB(E)

After the public days were over at the Singapore Airshow the real work began for us Apron Operation staff. Preflight arrangements, aircraft departure handling, aircraft arrival handling and the preparation of documents were in full swing. I was tasked with filling up AHANs and General Declarations for outbound crew and escorting the aircraft during the night towing operations where the whole of Changi Coast Road was shut down. This was done to facilitate the towing of aircraft involved in the airshow to Changi Airbase for their departure back to their respective home-bases. Filling of flight plans was done by flight ops while passenger services staff accompanied the aircraft into the airbase until engine start-up and 2nd block time. The experience was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and is a memory I will cherish for a long time to come.

I also had the privilege of being able to see the helicopters depart SADA not by towing but by simply flying off.

Being able to take part in the Singapore Airshow as a member of the apron operations team has opened my eyes and broadened my perspective of the inner workings of such large events. While I really enjoyed myself, I also saw the handwork and effort that went into organizing such a huge event and all the more made me appreciate not only our frontline workers but also those who worked behind the scenes to make such an event a successful one

RSN's Seahawk taking off from SADA
USN's Kighthawk taking off from SADA


bottom of page