Organizers of the Dubai Airshow expect the event to give the aerospace industry a shot in the arm after the Covid-19 crisis left a two-year gap in the international air show calendar.
“What is unique about this Dubai Airshow is that it is going to be the first major event for the aerospace industry following the pandemic,” said Ismail Abdulla, CEO of Strata Manufacturing (Stand 1000), the UAE’s groundbreaking aerostructures venture.
When AIN counted 65 A380s parked up long-term at Dubai South in September last year, it did not augur well for the event. “In the last six months, DWC saw many aircraft placed in storage, including several from Emirates," Richard Gaona, chief executive of Switzerland's Comlux, told AIN in September. “Now, every week, three or four A380s are moving back into operation.”
Prevailing growth rates in the decade to 2019 indicated this year’s visitor attendance could hit the 88,000 mark. While there is no guarantee that figure will be achieved, the concurrent staging of Expo 2020, postponed for 12 months, will act as a further draw. “The recent easing of travel restrictions in the run-up to Expo will allow people to travel if they are not being restricted by their home countries,” said managing director of DC Aviation Al-Futtaim Holger Ostheimer.
Senior military and civil delegations from 148 countries have committed to attending the show, said organizers.
“The Dubai Airshow is set to be one of the most anticipated points of convergence for aerospace professionals across all areas of the industry, to facilitate successful global trade and analyze the future of the industry,” said Mubadala Aerospace executive director Badr Al Olama.
In 2019, the show saw $54 billion worth of orders, $4 billion of them on the defense side. Emirates signed for 50 Airbus A350 XWBs worth $16 billion, while Air Arabia ordered 120 aircraft worth $14 billion. Halcon, a unit of UAE military conglomerate Edge Group, agreed to a $980 million deal with the UAE’s Ministry of Defense. Few hope to see a repeat of the bumper year of 2013, when an Emirates mega-order brought the total to $206 billion.
Sixteen country pavilions, including those of the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and China, will be on display. Saudi Arabia will also project a major presence, via both its defense and civil sectors, including exhibitors the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Saudi Aerospace Company, Saudi Arabian Airlines, OxfordSaudia Flight Academy, and GDC Middle East.
“The pandemic had an enormous impact on the aerospace industry, affecting manufacturing, airlines, airports, and defense companies,” said Eng. Muneer Bakhsh, CEO at Saudi public investment fund company GDC Middle East. “Taking part in Dubai Airshow provides an understanding of industry’s insights on the aerospace sector…[and] opens doors for new partnership opportunities.”
According to show organizers, GAMI recently announced 74 targeted opportunities in supply chains in Saudi Arabia’s military industries sector in an effort to localize more than 50 percent of military spending by 2030. “GAMI also launched a digital marketplace platform to enable authorized investors to access the local military industry easily and identify localization opportunities,” they said.
For the first time ever, representatives of Israel's aerospace sector, including Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), SIBAT, Elbit Systems, and UVision Air Ltd., will attend. IAI announced in August a partnership with Etihad Engineering to develop the Boeing 777-300ERSF P2F conversion program at Abu Dhabi International Airport, expected to start operations in late-2022 or early-2023.
Several event conferences, including Global Air Traffic Management, Cargo Connect, the Aerospace 2050 Forum, and Tech Xplore, will investigate a number of themes, among them cyber security strategies, sustainable autonomous flight, advanced aerial mobility, and satellite connectivity.
“It’s apparent that the UAE is committed to creating a more sustainable future and we have collaborated with them on multiple initiatives, such as founding the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) to develop sustainable aviation fuels,” said Boeing chief sustainability officer Chris Raymond.
Organizers expect over 160 aircraft to be on static display, including the Emirates A380, Comlux's Boeing BBJ 767-200ER 'SkyLady', the VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500, and the Bell 505 and 429 helicopters.
Fursan Al Emarat, (Knights of the Emirates), the UAE National Aerobatic Team, will conduct displays on afternoons at the show under the command of new squadron leader, Lt.-Col. Sultan Al Kindi, after Col. Nasser Al Obaidli left to become an airworthiness director at the UAE Ministry of Defense.
Strata's Abdulla hopes to have the Boeing 787 vertical fin on display at the show. “This is the largest industrial project to be exported from the UAE,” he said in September. “The product...is ready to be installed on a 787 and we are shipping it to Charleston.”