The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) ’07 exhibition, one of the region’s prestigious aerospace and maritime defence expositions, will also be drawing participation from the civil aviation industry this year.

World Aerospace Sdn Bhd chairman Tan Sri Kamaruzzaman Shariff said that in addition to the usual display of aerospace and maritime technology, this year’s show would also feature light aircraft and local companies which handle aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).

World Aerospace Sdn Bhd is the new organiser of the event, which is held biennially on Langkawi island, with this year’s being the ninth edition since it was introduced in 1991.

Kamaruzzaman said one of the challenges faced in this year’s Lima was the dwindling number of exhibitors due to mergers of major players in the defence aerospace industry.

“For example, if we had five or six different exhibitors before, we would now only have one as they have all merged into one group,” he told a news conference at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) headquarters, here Monday.

“Therefore, there’s a move to make Lima ’07 more affordable for smaller companies to exhibit, especially for those who handle MRO operation and technology for aircraft.”

He said this year’s airshow would also feature unique side attractions such as exhibitions on gadgets as well as on Malaysian batik, as the event would cap off the Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Meanwhile, the company’s chief executive officer, Nonee Ashirin Mohamed Radzi, said the target for this year’s Lima was more than 300 exhibitors.

She said about 70 per cent of the floor space at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) in Langkawi had so far been booked and sold.

The newly-renovated MIEC features a bigger space at 16,152 sq metres to accommodate new pavilions for unmanned aerial vehicles, MRO technology and space technology.

Although the event was once ranked the third best defence and aviation exhibition in the world and the sales platform for major arms and aircraft companies, the airshow is still a hit among the public. Nonee said in view of this, the company was mulling over possible collaboration with the Youth and Sports Ministry as well as the Higher Education Ministry in campaigns to expose the younger generation to the aerospace industry and inculcate their interest in it.

Meanwhile, Asli CEO Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh, who was present at the news conference, said Asli would also hold an “Aviation and Aerospace Conference” on Dec 3 and 4 during Lima ’07.

He said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Defence Minister, would be invited to open the conference and deliver a keynote address.

The conference, with sessions that discuss the future of the aviation industry, its market outlook and challenges of the military MRO business, will see the participation of industry players and speakers from Malaysia, Singapore, USA, UK and Australia, among others.

Set to be staged on Dec 4-8 at the MIEC, this year’s showcase will include more than 120 aircraft including jet fighters, helicopters and transport planes.

Besides the latest military and civilian aircraft, the newest attraction of this year’s Lima will be airport and airfield equipment.

To date, the list of participants in Lima ’07 includes SAAB from Sweden, Sukhoi (Russia), Thales (France) and MIG (Russia).

The crowd favourite in the airshow, the aerobatic Red Arrows from the USA, is also expected to make a grand return, according to World Aerospace.