A record number of exhibitors, maiden Dubai appearances of high-profile aircraft and the debut of the UAE Air Force’s flight display team are among the highlights of the Dubai Air Show 2011. But organizers note an even bigger milestone will be observed at this year’s show: The 40th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates.
“We’re asking all exhibitors and attendees to join in and celebrate with us,” said Alison Weller, managing director of show organizer F&E Aerospace. “The world media comes to Dubai for the airshow, and we want to showcase to the world how far we’ve come.”
Following the official ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler, 55,000 visitors are expected to view the stands of 950 exhibitors and some 100 aircraft on static display, as well as the daily flight demonstrations. Among aircraft making their first appearance in Dubai are Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor and the Xian MA600, marking the first time the 60-passenger turboprop commuter has flown outside of China.
Al Fursan, the UAE Air Force’s flight demonstration team (see page 5), will also make its world debut here, performing daily in honor of the UAE’s anniversary.
Official delegations from almost 50 countries, air force commanders from 26 nations, about 30 defense ministers and a similar number of chiefs of staff from around the globe are scheduled to attend, according to organizers. So will civil delegations from 18 air carriers, and about 20 civil aviation ministers.
“This show does seem to attract a very broad spectrum of military and government representatives, and the UAE prides itself on being able to host them in a fairly neutral atmosphere,” said F&E CEO Clive Richardson.
Indeed, with the winds of the Arab Spring still blowing strongly, Dubai’s position as something of a Switzerland of the Middle East keeps political overtones from coloring the event. Egypt and Iraq are both sending delegations. Syria is not.
In another first, the Gulf Aviation Training Event being conducted here is focusing on how to attract and train people for work in aviation. In the same theme, the final day of the show will be “Futures Day,” dedicated to bringing youths into careers in aviation, an industry that already represents a large portion of the UAE’s GDP.
“We’re acquiring a lot of aircraft, and we’re going to need a large workforce–not just pilots,” Weller said, adding that college and university students have been invited to attend the show. “We’re hoping they’ll meet some future employers.”
Weller noted that the opportunity to make contacts is also what brings aviation professionals here. “The order book isn’t the be all and end all of the show,” Weller said. “[Attendees] are here to meet people. It’s all about relationships, especially in this part of the world. That’s why the show is so successful.”