Wings of desire: Singapore Airshow highlights

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

This week's Singapore Airshow was billed as Asia's largest air show and one of the most important aerospace and defense exhibitions in the world.

And on display was an array of fighter jets, luxury planes and transport giants.

The air show also takes place against a backdrop of growing interest in fast-growing Asian markets, with several trade deals nailed on the first day of the event.

Here are some of the highlights of the aircraft on display.


Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Nicky Loh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Qatar Airways took part in the Singapore Airshow for the first time and its Boeing 787 Dreamliner was the other big commercial aircraft on display, alongside the Airbus 350XWB.

This was also the first time that any airline showcased a 787 at a Singapore Airshow, which takes place every two years.

The Qatar Airways 787, designed for long-haul flight, features 254 seats, improved cabin pressure and a more spacious seating plan. The airline has nine Boeing 787 Dreamliners. It will operate the 787 Dreamliner on its Singapore-Doha route, which will be the airline's first route in Southeast Asia to use the 787.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has suffered from a string of problems since it came into service about two years ago. These included the grounding of the Dreamliner fleet last year over battery system problems. Earlier this month, pilots of an Air India Dreamliner had to divert mid-flight and were forced to land in Kuala Lumpur after facing computer troubles.

Embraer Lineage 1000E

Embraer

This was one of four Embraer planes on display in Singapore. The ultra-large plane is Embraer's largest executive jet and can carry up to 19 passengers in a five-cabin zone.

The aircraft features an electronic fly-by-wire flight control system and has a large number of settings that offer enough space for work, meetings and rest. According to Embraer, the world's largest manufacturer of commercial jets, the Lineage 1000E's ample baggage compartment is the largest among all competitors.

The Singapore Airshow marked the first time the model was on display in Asia.

Airbus A350XWB

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

One of the most talked about planes at the event, the Airbus A350XWB was on full display at an international air show for the first time. The aircraft, which is expected to come into service later this year, also performed its first ever airshow flying display. The A350XWB is designed to be fuel efficient, with just over half of the plane made from carbon fiber to make it lighter.

It has a list price starting at $254.3 million, can carry between 200 to 400 passengers and is viewed as a sign of Airbus stepping up its game against rival Boeing in the long-haul market. Airbus has received about 814 orders for the A350XWB so far, with 30 percent of those orders reportedly coming from Asian airlines.

The A350 saw some delays in flight testing and airline analysts say that Airbus has learned from the testing problems surrounding the launch of rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The European planemaker has not been without its own problems in recent years. Internal manufacturing and design flaws on its A380 have crimped sales of that plane. The Federal Aviation Administration meanwhile said in December that it was concerned that the design of the A350-900 Series airplane may allow too much connectivity between the plane's control domain and other electronic systems on board the aircraft.

Cessna Sovereign+

Cessna

Textron-owned Cessna had two business jets on display at the air show this week – its new Sovereign and the Citation XLS . Deliverers for the $17.90 million Sovereign began late last year and the plane's key features include an increased full-fuel payload, the addition of winglets and an upgrade to the cockpit.

Textron last month reported a jump in fourth-quarter profit as Cessna deliveries picked up after five consecutive quarters of decline. And private jet manufacturers are now looking to the U.S. to drive big orders in this segment as the world's number one economy turns a corner.


U.S. Air Force C-17

CNBC

The U.S. Air Force C-17 strategic transport aircraft was one of the giants on display at the Singapore Air Show, getting lots of attention for its sheer size.

The heavy-lift capability aircraft, used in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also involved in the humanitarian effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November last year.

Herbert Carlisle, U.S. Commander, Pacific Air Forces told CNBC the C-17, built by Boeing, would continue to be key to the U.S. military's heavy-lifting capabilities. "We have 220 C-17s and their capability, their flexibility… the amount of cargo they can carry, the amount of humanitarian supplies they can carry, means they will continue to be a backbone for the U.S. military," he said on the sidelines of the air show.


Lockheed Martin-built F-35

Lockheed Martin

Another one drawing the crowds was a mock-up of the F-35 stealth jet, built by Lockheed Martin.

The F-35 is considered to be the world's most expensive weapons program and was designed as the next-generation fighter jet for the U.S. military.

The U.S. government estimates that it will spend $392 billion for 2,443 F-35s over the next few decades, according to media reports. Italy, Norway, Japan and Israel are among the countries with orders for the F-35 and the U.K. is reported to be close to placing its first order for the jet.


Boeing AH-64D Apache

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Of the attack helicopters on display at the air show was the Boeing AH-64D Apache. It is the Republic of Singapore Air Force's primary attack helicopter and first introduced to the Singapore military in 2002.

The Apache is a multi-mission attack helicopter designed for fight during day and night and to operate in adverse weather conditions. It is the first tandem-seat helicopter used by Singapore's Air Force, with the pilot located in the rear cockpit and the co-pilot in the front seat.


MV-22 Osprey

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

The MV-22 Osprey helicopter, co-manufactured by Bell and Boeing, was another one getting attention. The helicopter, the world's first production tilt-rotor aircraft, has been used for accident and emergency operations such as when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last year.

It is the first time the MV-22 was on display at the Singapore Air Show and the first time many people were viewing the helicopter "up close and personal," according to Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison.

"Frankly, there's no other aircraft in the world that can do what the V22 can do and it demonstrated that last year in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan," Garrison told CNBC on the sidelines of the air show.


Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft

Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Hermes 450 was one of the smaller aircraft on display at the Singapore Air Show, but not one to go unnoticed. This single-engine unmanned aerial vehicle was one of two unmanned aircraft on display from the Republic of Singapore Air Force [RSAF].

Built by Israel, the Hermes 450 has a maximum range of 100 km and maximum endurance of about 14 hours.

According to the RSAF, the main use of the Hermes is surveillance and reconnaissance and it is operated by a pilot and co-pilot from a base. The unmanned vehicle is also equipped with communication systems that can transfer imagery in real time to ground control stations.