Anyone turning up at the Bahrain air show expecting a flurry of news announcements would be disappointed. It's not that sort of show. But it would be wrong too to characterise the three-day biennial event, held for the second time last week, as simply a vanity flag-waving project by Bahrain - although the government does give it a huge amount of support.
Bahrain itself is tiny. Its population - expats and guest workers included - is only around two million. Its importance is in its status as a regional commercial centre and an offshore satellite of Saudi Arabia, with (unlike its causeway-linked neighbour) business- and visitor-friendly laws and a socially-liberal outlook. Alcohol is permitted and Western dress is commonplace among Bahrainis, most of whom speak fluent English.
Last year's Arab Spring-inspired upheavals were the elephant in the room at the show - which I returned from on Saturday. The way the protests were violently put down by the authorities tarnished Bahrain's reputation in the West and decimated tourism and investment - the cornerstones of its economy. Flag-carrier Gulf Air's traffic collapsed and the Formula 1 Grand Prix was cancelled.
The official line is that things have improved, visitors are returning and a process of national reconcilliation is under way. However, many of those who were involved in the protests a year ago are sceptical and - while I didn't see any demonstrations or even evidence (grafitti, defaced posters) of anti-regime sentiment - resentment is clearly still bubbling below the surface, both in Shia villages and, judging by social media, among an element of young, informed, educated Bahrainis. Boycott #BIAS2012 was a popular thread on Twitter throughout the show.
To the visitor, Bahrain certainly doesn't seem like a police state, despite the occasional checkpoint that wasn't there last time I visited. The people are the friendliest I have met in the Middle East and the country - or at least the bits I have visited - has a relaxed, congenial, rather British feel to it (there are even London-style black cabs). Many of the ex-pats I spoke to just want the problems to go away and for Bahrain to return to what it was pre-2011. My Indian "guest worker" taxi driver, whose livelihood depends on cruise ships and business visitors, couldn't understand what the fuss was about. Those protesting had access to social security, free education and subsidised housing; the government made every effort to find them jobs, but many did not want to work. "They should try living in India," was his view. "There, if you don't work, you don't earn money."
But the work-shy - rather than the desperate - don't tend to go on demonstrations where they know there is a chance of them being beaten, imprisoned or shot. Many of those who lost their jobs because they took part in protests last year were among Bahrain's elite - heart surgeons, lawyers, Gulf Air employees. Hardly an underclass inspired by religious fanaticism and preyed on by Iranian agents formenting regional instability.
I, for one, felt slightly uneasy about attending the Bahrain air show this year and I sincerely hope the country is seriously tackling the grievances that led to the bloody clashes in 2011. Bahrain does not deserve to be lumped with all the grim and chaotic dictatorships shaken by the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, where hopelessness and deep resentment at brutal and corrupt regimes fuelled the uprisings.
The organisers of the Bahrain air show were clearly delighted at the quality of attendees and exhibitors, which included more than half a dozen US manufacturers, and that the show passed off without any trouble. The fact that it took place at all was a sign of the country returning to normality.
Look out for our coverage of the show on flightglobal.com/bahrain