Buoyed by the 40 percent growth figures for this year’s event, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is making no secret of Dubai’s ambitions to eventually host the world’s biggest airshow in 20 years’ time. Now ranked third behind Paris and Farnborough, the 10th edition of the show now under way has seen a huge increase in participation by local and regional industry organizations, a factor the chairman of show organizers Fairs & Exhibitions (F&E), Virginia Kern, called a “crucial factor in its continuing expansion.”
“We’re completely sold out of exhibition space, static parking and chalets,” said Kern. She revealed that several last-minute applications for space from U.S. and European companies had to be turned down. “We’ve been as creative as we can to satisfy unprecedented demand. We’ve even used space under stair wells,” she added.
Kern confirmed Dubai’s ambition to outgrow its European rivals as a natural outcome to the current exponential growth in aviation in the Middle East, for which the UAE has become the center of activity.
The show launched in 1989 with just 200 exhibitors, one 7,000 square meter hall, 25 aircraft on static display and 10,000 visitors. In 2007 the show has grown to 850 exhibitors, 35,000 square meters of floor space and 140 aircraft, with visitor numbers rising to 40,000.
The new airshow site for 2009, at Dubai Exhibition World in Jebel Ali, will double the physical size of the current event, with 42,000 square meters of exhibition space allocated and enough capacity to provide for 70,000 square meters. Visitors will also benefit from links to the Dubai Metro, now under construction.
New exhibitors at this year’s event include show sponsor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, formed in February 2006. “We have around 130 newcomers from 24 countries,” said Alison Weller, director – aerospace at F&E. “They account for more than 10 percent of the overall exhibitor profile.” Five new exhibiting countries–the Cayman Islands, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Luxembourg—also sent representatives.
Aircraft present for the first time include the Dassault Falcon 7X and Sino Swearingen SJ30 business jets, Cirrus SR22 light aircraft, Eclipse 500 very light jet and MD902 no-tail-rotor helicopter.
Airbus will present its A380 in a daily flying display, while military performers will include the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 and F-117A Night Hawk stealth fighter, and the MiG-29.