This was the show that saw Abu Dhabi's Mubadala emerge as the Middle East's key playmaker, both in the global industry and in the race to create the region's leading high-tech aerospace hub.

The state-owned investment house had the biggest stand, incorporating under one house brand for the first time its overseas businesses Piaggio Aerospace and SR Technics (which it controls along with India's Tata) as well as domestic divisions, Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, Horizon Flight Academy and new aerostructures venture Strata.

Mubadala also gave its clearest signal yet of its intention to shift up the supply chain to become a fully fledged airframer. Homaid Al Shemmari, the organisation's associate director of business development, said Mubadala is determined to build its own business jet by 2018.

The most likely candidate would be Piaggio's long talked-about jet-powered sister aircraft to its Avanti II twin pusher. Genoa-based Piaggio is known to be creating a prototype of its first jet, although few details have emerged about the design or its likely launch date.

"What we do will be in partnership with someone and Piaggio is our current platform," says Al Shemmari.

Mubadala also announced partnerships with Airbus and Boeing. The Airbus one fleshes out a 2008 deal, and will see Strata build aileron composite panels and shipsets for the A330/A340. A strategic framework agreement with Boeing will see the two companies work together on aerospace technology projects. Mubadala has a separate agreement with Finmeccanica.

At the show, Mubadala held a ceremony to officially launch construction of the Strata factory at the airport in the oasis city of Al Ain. The plant, which will open in early 2011, will also build parts for ATR aircraft.

 Homaid Al Shemmari Mubadala
 Homaid Al Shemmari: "What we do will be in partnership with someone"

The global financial crisis that hit Dubai last year has seen the centre of gravity shift between the two neighbouring emirates in many ways, including for their recently established aerospace champions.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise - whose giant stand and red corporate branding dominated the previous show - has after a high-profile launch three years ago consolidated to a leasing division and two overseas subsidiaries. Other than firming up some supplier deals, DAE had a quiet Dubai.

Al Shemmari says Mubadala's partnership and acquisition strategy is entirely designed to help Abu Dhabi create a capital-intensive, high-value aerospace industry in Abu Dhabi. Although Strata will initially "build to print", the aim is for it to become a first-tier supplier, with engineering, design and research and development capability within three years, he says.

"We are targeting new technologies. It's not like the Chinese or Indian model. We want to create a world-class education system around aerospace and aviation, diversify our economy, create sustainable businesses and provide career opportunities for UAE nationals," he says.

"Everything is a pull into Abu Dhabi. Our investments are not just capital plays, although they all make financial sense. But everything has to be tied into diversifying our economy."

In a separate move towards creating a fledgling aerospace sector in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai-based Perla Group International has acquired Ukrainian helicopter manufacturer DB Aerocopter, and plans to move final assembly of its two-seat AK1-3 to Dubai, possibly to the new Aviation City at the planned Dubai World Central airport development.

Perla founder and chief executive Charles D'Alberto said the acquisition had happened by chance. "I went to buy a helicopter and came back owning the company," he said at the show.

DB Aerocopter first produced its helicopter 10 years ago, and the main markets for the latest version include Russia and the CIS and South America. The company is in talks to sell 200 of the Subaru-powered helicopters to Brazil.

Source: Flight International