Commercial and military the main movers at the Dubai Airshow 2017
The Dubai Airshow took place over five fine days in November, and while it was quiet on the private aviation front, the civil and military sectors enjoyed renewed interest and the daily air display was always entertaining.
Taking place just weeks after the North American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas, the business aviation section of the Dubai Airshow was always likely to be quite quiet. There were no major announcements and while the major players were there, meeting customers, suppliers, business partners and the press, a surprising number chose just to ‘walk the show’.
However, with bright sunny days – no repeat of the sandstorms or rain that have surprised visitors to the previous two events – the turnout was good and the event enjoyable. The final figures were fairly impressive, with record-breaking numbers of exhibitors, aircraft on display, visitors and some groundbreaking deals struck. This year saw visitors to the event up 20% compared to 2015, with just under 80,000 people turning up, and an order book of US$113.8 billion.
Emirates announced the signing of a US$15.1 billion commitment to purchase 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners.
As ever, the air show was well supported by senior dignitaries. Having officially opened the show, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, spent a good part of the morning on a walking tour around the 645,000 sqm site, pausing to speak with several exhibitors.
He was accompanied by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed then joined officials from Emirates Airline and Boeing to witness the first big news of the show – the signing of a US$15.1 billion commitment to purchase 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners.
Emirates also used the show to unveil what it is describing as a game-changer in the first class travel market. The Dubai-based carrier’s upgraded 777 fleet will see the introduction of the world’s first fully enclosed private suites, described by President Emirates Airline Sir Tim Clark as akin to ‘a six-star hotel room’ in the sky.
Inspired by Mercedes Benz, the new six-suite first class cabin features leather seating, hi-tech control panels, mood lighting and floor-to-ceiling doors, as well as face-to-face screen-based cabin crew contact, food delivery hatches to protect client privacy and virtual ‘windows’ in the central suites of the 1-1-1 configuration.
Boeing also inked a US$27 billion deal with low-cost carrier flydubai for 225 aircraft in its 737 MAX family, the largest-ever single-aisle jet order – by number of airplanes and total value – from a Middle East carrier, and won large commitments across its twin- and single-aisle commercial airplane families, debuting key capabilities including the CST-100 Starliner docking and KC-46 re-fueling simulators.
There was also good news for competitor Airbus, as the company revealed its largest single announcement ever – a US$49.5 billion deal with Indigo Partners to purchase 430 aircraft in its A320neo family. With the Airbus order, Indigo Partners, a US-based private equity fund, has doubled its existing order of 427 A320 family aircraft. The fund owns four ultra low-cost airlines, Wizz Air, Frontier Airlines, JetSMART and Volaris
Golden Falcon Aviation, the exclusive aircraft provider of Kuwaiti carrier Wataniya airways signed a deal to lease 25 Airbus A320neo Family aircraft, while Air Arabia, the Middle East low cost carrier, agreed to lease six Airbus A321neo aircraft. AerCap and Egypt Air negotiated a deal with Airbus during the Dubai Airshow to lease 15 Airbus A320neo.
No big news from the corporate jets arm of the company, although a rather beautiful ACJ319 was on the static, courtesy of Comlux, highlighting the value of a “best in class” cabin to potential customers.
Military representatives were out in force and clutching large chequebooks, led by the UAE Ministry of Defence, who revealed an order book of more than US$1.77 billion, including the purchase of 60 Lockheed Martin F-16s. The order book includes new deals for international and local companies, including Abu Dhabi Aviation, Thales, Augusta Westland and Global Aerospace Logistics.
Away from the big deals, ground-breaking airline Boom Supersonic revealed more details of its plans for commercial Mach-2 flights. The company aims to pick an engine to power its developmental supersonic airliner programme next year as it works towards service entry in 2023 for the 55-passenger aircraft. Although currently the choices for Blake Scholl, company founder and chief executive, still seem wide open, with the team talking about working through several possibilities, including a derivative of a current commercial engine or a clean-sheet powerplant for the supersonic aircraft.
It was good to see Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus aiming to boost regional business with a strong presence at the heart of the exhibition hall. Spokesman Bruno Cabrini said he saw a great deal of interest in the company’s latest aircraft offering – the PC-24, the world’s first business jet which can be used on short, unprepared runways.
In the skies above the show, the daily air display proved a popular draw, opening each day with the hair raising Russian Knights in Sukhoi SU30Ms and closing with an amazing acrobatic display from the UAE’s own Al Fursan flying their Aermacchi MB-339NATs. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s August 1st aerobatic team from China also held there own with a display in J10 jets.