Quality over quantity
It was a smaller, quieter MEBAA show than we have seen previously, but exhibitors generally seemed happy with the type of visitor coming to their stands, chalets and aircraft, and there were plenty of announcements.
The Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) held it bi-annual show at Dubai South in December. The three-day event was the eighth edition of the show and took place in a stable but subdued business aviation market in the Middle East.
This year’s edition attracted more than 450 exhibitors and 34 business jets on static display, with 24 companies attending the biennial event for the first time. It definitely seemed smaller than on previous occasions, but according to exhibitors, while there were fewer visitors, those who came were the right people – owners, potential owners, fleet managers, charter clients and real prospects.
The show was opened by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman, Dubai Airports, and Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, who took the time to visit with a number of exhibitors, including Click Aviation, Pratt & Witney, Honeywell and Aloft AeroArchitects.
The highlight of the first day was the announcement of a new aircraft from Boeing Business Jets, the BBJ 777X, which is planned to roll off the production lines in Q1 2021. Described as the longest-range business jet, its range of 21,570 kilometres will allow it to fly from and to anywhere in the world, without refuelling.
Greg Laxton, Head of Boeing Business Jets, said: “We are launching the business jet version of the 777 at the MEBAA Show as 52 per cent of our global twin aisle business comes from this region. We enjoy a 12 per cent market share in this region, which we hope to maintain.”
BBJ also had a stunning BBJ787-8 Dreamliner on the static display, a first for MEBAA. The newly completed Greenpoint Technology-designed aircraft, has an elegant interior featuring both open spaces and private rooms, with an open dining area and lounge, master suite with its own lounge and office and a gym.
At the other end of the scale was the MEBAA debut of the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet, the smallest jet on the market. While the idea of a personal jet is relatively new to the Middle East, Cirrus has previously shown SR models at MEBAA, operated locally by the Royal Saudi Air Force, and the Emirates Flight Training Academy, plus seven that are privately owned. The company reported that it has already received five orders for SF50s from clients in the region.
Comlux brought another debutante to the tarmac, the Sukhoi Superjet. The 19-passenger Russian jet was outfitted by Comlux Completions in Indiana last year and it is now operated by Comlux Kazakhstan, and also on sale by the company.
Diamond Aircraft Industries debuted its new twin-engine DA62 demonstrator, featuring some of the added exterior and interior design options that will be available on 2019 models. But the big news for the company was the signing of an order for 60 aircraft from the new pilot training centre set up by the Saudi National Company of Aviation and training specialists CAE. The order consists of Diamond’s twin-engine DA42-Viand single-engine DA40 NG aircraft, with deliveries spread over five years.
The highlight of the first day was the announcement of a new aircraft from Boeing Business Jets, the BBJ 777X, which is planned to roll off the production lines in Q1 2021.
Elsewhere, Airbus Corporate Jets had an ACJ320 on the static display and is looking forward to handing over the first ACJ320neo, also owned by Acropolis, to AMAC Aerospace for completion shortly. President Benoit Defforge told journalists that he fully expected to announce the signing of the first ACJ350 XWB soon.
Alongside the ACJ was a display from the new division Airbus Corporate Helicopters, featuring a lifesize ACH145 cabin mock up with a very stylish interior by Mercedes Benz.
Bell Helicopters gave visitors their first glimpse of a production 505 on the static display, alongside its 429 twin and 505 light single models. During the event, UAE-based EDIC Horizon Flight Training Academy signed an agreement with Bell for two 429s. Bell already has some 800 aircraft flying in the region.
Launches and signings
On the opening day, major sponsor Online Global Trip Support (OGTS) launched a combined suite of new products aimed at helping industry operators save time, money and hassle.
OGTS’ Founder, Chairman and CEO, Munir Khali said: “OGTS takes care of operations in one convenient dashboard environment, providing all you need to create a service request, identify flights, fleet information and schedule flights. We have created a simple user interface that pulls all the strands of flight operation under one umbrella – such as licences, permits, fuelling and handling.”
Satcom Direct chose the MEBAA Show to introduce QEPA, a new flat panel connectivity antenna for business and military aviation produced in a partnership between SD Avionics and QEST. However, visitors were drawn to their stand by the twice-daily ‘live hacks’ performed by experts from CogniSec Inc, the digital security testing company. These demonstrations revealed loopholes in security systems and how easily they can be breached with the right software tools and knowledge.
Engin Basyurt, Business Development Director, Satcom Direct Middle East & Turkey, explained how his company helps business aviation avoid the threat of cyber security breaches: “We provide active threat monitoring as part of our suite of digital flight monitoring services. We have the technology to notice anything unusual on the network, whichever network you are using, and can alert the client however they wish.”
Falcon Aviation had a raft of announcements, as it has sign a deal with Honeywell, to become an authorised Channel Partner in the UAE, and began a five-year onshore and offshore oil and gas contract with KOC in December. In addition, the company’s first Pilatus PC-24 aircraft will begin operations next September, with the paint scheme and the interiors currently being finalised.
A shift in Falcon’s business in the UAE will see its established Al Bateen Executive Airport, Abu Dhabi HQ evolving into a premier turboprop MRO base, supporting the Bombardier Q400, where it has full base maintenance capabilities.
It was certainly an interesting show, and although the business aviation industry in the Middle East cannot be sure what the next couple of years will bring, the next MEBAA, taking place alongside the Dubai Expo 2020, will certainly be one to look forward to.