HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, officially opened the Dubai Air Show 2011 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the Royal Pavilion yesterday. Afterward he led a royal delegation on a tour of the static display and exhibitor stands.
Sheikh Mohammed’s background as the UAE’s first minister of defense and his enthusiasm for innovative aircraft were both evident in his choice of stops during the tour. He was accompanied by Alison Weller, managing director of show organizer F&E Aerospace.
Proceeding to the static display, the entourage stopped first to meet the members of Al Fursan, the UAE Air Force flight demonstration team. They gathered around one of the Aermacchi MB339s that the team flies.
Sheikh Mohammed and the entourage also examined the UAE Air Force C-17A Globemaster, the Bell V-22 Osprey Tilt Rotor, the Sikorsky UH60M Black Hawk and Saab 2000 operated by the Pakistan Air Force, flydubai’s Boeing 737 and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
After a stop at Bombardier’s chalet, the royal entourage entered the exhibit hall where they were greeted by a delegation that included Randy Babbitt, administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Sheikh Mohammed made stops at the stands of Team Australia, Saab, Pratt & Whitney, EIAST and Northrop Grumman before touring Mubadala’s stand, paying particular attention to the uniquely painted Piaggio P180 Avanti II on display. Mubadala owns 31.5 percent of Piaggio.
Showing an interest in the region’s new emphasis on aviation training, the delegation made its way to the GATE exhibit, which showcases the region’s aviation educational institutions and training academies. The Boeing stand was the final stop on Sheikh Mohammed’s whirlwind tour before he and the delegation returned to the Royal Pavilion.
“He’s very pleased with the show and how big it has grown,” Weller told Dubai Airshow News when asked to characterize Sheikh Mohammed’s impressions of what he had seen. “He’s also very much enjoying all the aircraft, especially the new introductions on static display,” she said.