Business & Economy Khaw Boon Wan — Singapore will spend billions of dollars in the...

Khaw Boon Wan — Singapore will spend billions of dollars in the coming decades on air traffic services

"To manage increasingly crowded and complex air spaces, heavy investment in state-of-the-art technologies and systems, as well as investments in continuous training and upskilling, are critical," said the Transport minister

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Singapore— The country’s Transport Minister said on May 16, Thursday, that the price of maintaining air traffic services will cost Singapore a few billions of dollars in the coming decades. This is needful, he said, considering that we have one of the most heavily-used air spaces in the world..

Hence the need for big investments in air traffic management capabilities.

Mr Khaw said at the Civil Aviation Development Forum in Beijing,

“Some commentators think that managing air space is a viable business venture, but they are wrong. Fees by airlines barely cover the high cost of managing airspace properly.”

At the moment, the country’s air traffic management system costs over S$300 million. And, despite it only being commissioned six years ago, upgrading to the next level is already in the works in order to prevent “obsolescence,” Mr Khaw said.

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Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports that he was forthright with how much these new developments would cost. “Over the next few decades, we expect to spend a few billion dollars to continue providing air traffic services to the highest standards of safety and efficiency,” the Transport Minister asserted.

Aside from the ever-developing technology, air traffic control manpower is another area where a big investment is needed. “This is a labour-intensive and skills-intensive profession,” he said.

There are 700 air traffic controllers deployed throughout the country, all of whom study and train extensively for their jobs. the Singapore Aviation Academy also has a new Aerodrome Simulator, which lets trainers enact simulations of unplanned incidents in order to get air traffic controllers used to handling such situations.

Additionally, air traffic controllers from other states may also avail of this type of training in the country, since we are collaborating with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The Transport Minister said, “With significant air traffic growth, air navigation service providers bear the heavy responsibility of providing air traffic services safely and efficiently.

To manage increasingly crowded and complex airspaces, heavy investment in state-of-the-art technologies and systems, as well as investments in continuous training and upskilling, are critical.”

Nevertheless, he admitted that there is room for improvement when it comes to the operational efficiency of airspace management, which he said is generally fragmented, which causes higher airline fees, inefficiencies, and longer flight times.

“To fully realise the benefits of air traffic growth, we should rethink the current arrangements,” he said Mr Khaw. “This is where governments should take the lead, in integrating airspace and optimising its use.”

To illustrate this, he used the example of ASEAN nations, whose vision is to have a seamless Asean Sky— a unified airspace with procedures and operations that are in sync and are interoperable.

The Transport Minister said that when this becomes operational, there will be a “multi-fold increase” in airspace capacity, cost reductions, less delays, as well as greater safety of air traffic management.

He acknowledged, however, that this will take time as well as trust built between partner nations. “It will, however, require governments to take an enlightened win-win approach, grounded on mutual trust. It will take time to realise such a vision. But I am confident that it will happen because it’s the right thing to do.”/ TISG

Read related: Khaw Boon Wan on bilateral relations: you can always forge some win-win solutions

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