Spent a really busy three days in the UAE the other week, researching material and carrying out interviews for both our Dubai air show preview and an interactive special on expat aviation career opportunities in emerging markets such as the Middle East.
I managed to tag on a very quick family holiday – on Avios points – which was interesting in that it was my first time in 25-plus visits to Dubai that I’d ever really seen it through a tourist’s eyes. First time in the (very warm) sea, first time in a hotel swimming pool (in Dubai), first proper journey on the Metro and first visit to one of the emirate’s cavernous malls. My business trips to the region are always a frenetic succession of meetings, travelling between meetings, occasional (very nice but formal) evening and lunch engagements and catching up with emails and work over a room service salad or burger in my hotel room. I love it, but it’s certainly not a vacation.
Once the family flew back on Sunday night, normal service resumed and I had a chance to interview the (British) chief executives of both Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports companies. While Abu Dhabi’s Tony Douglas’s big project is the mighty Midfield terminal, rising from the desert at Abu Dhabi International to become the new hub for Etihad, Paul Griffiths at Dubai has moved his attention from the monstrous Dubai World Central – which would have been on its way to becoming the world’s biggest airport by the mid-decade had Dubai not run out of money in 2009/10 – to squeezing every last bit of capacity out of Dubai International, bursting at the seams thanks to the growth of Emirates and the popularity of the city with the world’s holidaymakers.
I also spoke to the men (more Brits) responsible for recruiting the pilots to fill the flightdecks of the dozens of Emirates and Etihad widebodies joining the respective fleets in the next three years. And I had a chance to visit the impressive Strata aerostructures factory at Al Ain where workers are building carbonfibre parts for Airbus and others. Not only is the factory establishing the UAE firmly in the aerospace supply chain, it is also slowly performing a social and cultural revolution in the emirate. One shift at the plant is made up almost entirely of Emirati women, many of whom are working outside the household – and in skilled functions at that – for the first time. Creating careers for its citizens is an obsession of the UAE government and part of the reason it is so keen to develop an aerospace sector.
You will be able to read more in the Flight International edition of 12 November.