Dubai Air Show

Dubai airshow opens as the biggest so far

 - December 11, 2006, 6:02 AM

His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, cut the traditional ribbon to open the show here yesterday. But many of the sights that awaited him as he toured the teeming static park and three packed exhibition halls could scarcely have been imagined when the show got under way just 16 years ago.

His first stop, naturally, was the Emirates-liveried A380, hardly even conceived back in 1989 but a flying reality here this week. In the course of an hour-long tour of the ramp he also visited aircraft ranging in size from Boeing’s record-setting 777-200LR, with its extraordinary 9,420-nm range, to the pair of Ferrari-flanked Piaggio Avantis, propeller-driven but capable of flying at nearly 400 knots and 40,000 feet.

No defense minister would ignore the military types, of course, and a particular highlight was the UAE air force’s ownLockheed Martin F-16E/F Desert Falcon, making its first appearance here. He also stopped by another Dubai debutant, the Pilatus PC-21 turbo-prop trainer.

Then it was into the halls, where he found time to stop, look and chat with exhibitors on more than 50 stands. They included Luftansa Technik’s where he took the wraps off the model representing a VVIP A380.

Even before Sheikh Mohammed had finished his tour, the real business of the show was under way. After uncovering the model depicting the awesome Jebel Ali airport city development in the new central hall, he detoured upstairs in the entrance building to watch his younger brother, Emirates chairman and Department of Civil Aviation head HH Sheikh Ahmed, announce a $9.7 billion order for 42 Boeing 777s. Sheikh Ahmed and General Electric’s vice chairman, David Calhoun, also signed a $2 billion order for GE90-115B engines to power the airplanes.

Accompanying Sheikh Mohammed during his tour were Oman’s Minister of Defence, HE Badr Bin Saud Bin Hareb Al Bosaeedi; the chief of staff of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Fahad Al-Amir, and Swedish Air Force chief, Major General Jan Andersson, who is visiting the show to support the Middle East debut of the Gripen next-generation jet fighter which is appearing in the Dubai 2005 daily flying display.

This year’s show is easily the biggest so far, featuring 726 exhibitors from 46 countries and more than 100 aircraft, nearly 40 of them business jets. Official civil and military delegations from 88 countries are also expected.

The new central hall has added 25 percent to the total exhibition space, and Sheikh Mohammed said the Dubai government’s backing for the show would continue: “I can promise you that support will continue with even more development in the future.”

The show, organized by Fairs & Exhibitions in conjunction with the Department of Civil Aviation, the government of Dubai and the UAE Armed Forces is “a remarkable testament to public-private partnerships,” he added: “I extend my congratulations to all involved for delivering another world-class event in Duba