Dubai Airshow Preview

Set in the new Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai’s Airshow is set to be bigger than ever.



The 13th Dubai Airshow is upon us. All eyes will be on Dubai’s second airport November 17 to 21, as a new venue for the first time plays host to what is fast becoming one of the key events in the global aviation calendar.

A purpose-built venue at Dubai World Central (DWC), location of Al Maktoum International Airport, opened October 30, after handover from Dubai Airports Engineering Projects, the body responsible for the development of airport infrastructure in the emirate.

Event organisers F&E Aerospace are forecasting up to 60,000 trade visitors and 1,000 exhibitors, growth of five per cent and seven per cent respectively from 2011. “Total footprint of the exhibition space is 645,000 square metres (sq m), more than double the size of the old show site at the Airport Expo,” F&E said.

“The new venue also includes a larger static park with fewer flying restrictions, improved media and catering facilities along with three times more parking spaces than at the previous site.”

DWC is definitely on the march. Cargo operations started in summer 2010, and in 2011, business aviation took flight at the new facility. DWC officials said several airshow announcements can be expected from charter companies who operate private jets in the UAE. The Middle East Business Aviation 2014 event is due to take place in December that year, after the 2012 event served as a curtain-raiser for major shows at the new venue.

The sheer success of Emirates’ operations at Dubai International (DXB) is perhaps the main reason for the move from the airport. In 2010, Emirates president Tim Clark announced that the airline was staying put in DXB, but its presence at the existing airport would mean the creation of two new terminals, and the encroachment on other space for parking facilities and other requirements.

As a result, Dubai aviation officials decided to allocate the space used by the Expo for aircraft parking bays and to demolish the existing building on completion of the 2011 Airshow, forcing the move to a new venue. Another reason for the transfer to DWC is that DXB’s busy 24-hour operations have been disrupted in the past by the Airshow’s flying display, which will now be open to the public, and the new venue will enable Emirates in particular to operate normally at all times.

Quantifying the Dubai Airshow’s rise to prominence is not easy, but it has a lot to do with the unstoppable growth seen by the region’s “big three” airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways. Emirates now has 205 aircraft in the fleet (as of September 22), with a further 188 on order, worth over $71 billion. Etihad and Qatar are not far behind. Emirates president Tim Clark has been coy on orders Emirates is likely to make, but one aeroplane is likely to stand out.

Since the Airbus A350 is now expected to enter service in 2017, attention is likely to turn to the Boeing 777X, which is seen as the long-term replacement for the wildly successful Boeing 777-300ER and its sister variants. Versions of the jet labelled 8X and 9X are expected to enter service in around 2020, and Emirates says it has been cooperating on the design of the aircraft.

Tallying airshow orders is an imprecise science and comprehensive data are difficult to track down. Certainly the era of airlines using airshows to make
a splash over orders originated in the region: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s order for $19 billion of aircraft from Airbus and Boeing at the 2003 Paris Airshow set the scene for Emirates’ dramatic entry into the realms of big-airline big-order economics. At the time, he said: “Of course, Emirates is determined to be number one in the region and it has reached this level of quality, convincing passengers to travel on it.”

Few can forget the grin on the face of Lee Monson, Boeing head of commercial sales for the Middle East and Africa, the day in November 2005 that Emirates placed a $9.7 billion order for 42 Boeing 777s, with options for 20 more. Orders raked in at the 2011 Dubai Airshow were said to have reached $63 billion, according to F&E, but Dubai will want to bear in mind the success of the Paris Airshow earlier this year, which saw one of the highest totals ever set.

“This 50th International Paris Air Show was a great success with a record number of exhibitors, confirmed orders for more than $150 billion and he Airbus A350 XWB fly-past with the President of the French Republic attending, just a few days after its maiden flight,” said Emeric d’Arcimoles, Chairman of the Show.

The new CEO of F&E Aerospace, Egyptian American Sharief Fahmy, is convinced that the Dubai Airshow will prove to be a crossroads leading to new opportunities for all who attend. “If you want to do business in the Middle East and specifically the aerospace industry, this show…is an event not to be missed,” says Fahmy. “Every sector of the industry is represented at the show and it provides unparalleled networking opportunities.”

Another event 10 days later is likely to be of even more significance. On November 27, the awards panel of the Paris-based International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) will decide whether Sao Paolo, Yekaterinburg, Izmir or Dubai will host the World Expo 2020. Dubai is confident of success, and a winning bid would speed up the development of DWC considerably. Certainly a good deal of the debate on the immediate future of the airport will be dependent on the outcome of the BIE vote.

“If… a country seeks to attract attention, it is in the framework of architectural creation that it will be able to touch the spirit of everyone,” the BIE’s website says. “Cultural events are also a very good way to attract the interest and attention of the public to a specific country.” Both are categories in which Dubai excels.

According to DWC’s official website, “the proposed venue is located in Dubai World Central’s exhibition district (Dubai Trade Centre – Jebel Ali) as the site would be able to fully leverage the advantages of not only the Al Maktoum International Airport but also DWC’s surrounding amenities and facilities that will be online in [seven] years’ time to welcome the world to this extraordinary emirate.” Once the 13th Dubai Airshow ends, a winning Expo bid could mean the site only gets busier.