Dubai Air Show Special


Dubai air show static display 2009

© Billypix

Last hurrah: the Dubai air show will move from its present site to Al Maktoum International in 2013

This year's event will be the last at the current venue, but a strong international turnout will ensure it departs on a high

Organisers of the Dubai air show are ­forecasting that the biennial event will this year host around 55,000 trade visitors and 1,000 exhibitors- respectively up 6% and 12% from the 2009 show.

Plus, there will be debut Dubai appearances for two eye-catching designs - Boeing's newest in-service type, the 787, and the Bell Boeing's MV-22 tilt-rotor - and for United Arab ­Emirates' Al-Fursan display team.

Slashing of defence budgets worldwide has created a tough climate for air shows, evidenced by the ominous decision by Northrop Grumman to pull out of Farnborough 2012. But the Dubai show - which takes place at the city's Airport Expo from 13 to 17 November - benefits from its distinctive profile, yielding a predicament of constrained growth, rather than decline.

"We're in an emerging market and we're a young show - we're only on our 12th edition - and we'd expect to be growing still," says Alison Weller, managing director of organiser F&E Aerospace. "But we have definitely been slowed down," she acknowledges.

Still, about 20% of the event's growth is ­accounted for by new companies. US-based MD Helicopters is among those exhibiting for the first time, alongside other international players targeting the lucrative Middle Eastern market, as well as more local players staking their claim.

Overall, Abu Dhabi's Mubadala will be the show's biggest exhibitor, and for the first time a UAE-based helicopter manufacturer - namely Quest - will have a presence. But the show's international flavour can be discerned from the profile of its visitors.

While the UAE is the number-one origin and Saudi Arabia second, these are followed immediately by the UK, France and the USA. In line with the growth of the show, the Airport Expo's ­reception building is being extended, and the outdoor chalet and static display area ­redesigned to accommodate more outdoor ­exhibits. The 2009 experiment in allocating a separate hall to Emirates has been abandoned this time round. "It won't be that different - one last time at Airport Expo and it will still feel like Airport Expo," says Weller. From 2013, the venue for the Dubai air show will be Al-Maktoum International, centrepiece of the Dubai World Central project.

© Boeing © US Navy

Making their Dubai debuts will be the Boeing 787 and Bell Boeing MV-22

For the Airport Expo edition's last hurrah, three initiatives are being pursued. One is ­Futures Day, aimed at getting youth interested in aviation careers. Another is a Gulf aviation training event, to be graced by US Federal ­Aviation Administration head Randolph ­Babbitt, who will deliver a keynote address. Thirdly, the show will be an official event of a 40-day celebration of its host nation's 40th anniversary.

The UAE's heavyweight aviation credentials will be attested by exhibitors such as Mubadala and Emirates Airlines, by the show's location - next to such a heavily trafficked airport in Dubai International airport - set to be supplanted by the show's future venue as the wider ­region's exponential expansion continues.

Flight International 8 November 2011

The Middle East's importance to the global aerospace industry continues to grow. Ahead of next week's Dubai air show, our special features package examines the outlook for the region. Also don't miss our exclusive Boeing AH-6I cutaway poster.