Dubai Air Show

Dubai Air Show still grows, defying economic gravity

 - November 14, 2009, 4:55 AM

The 2009 Dubai Airshow will seek to buck the aerospace industry’s downward trend when it opens its doors this morning. But it seems highly unlikely that this will manifest itself in announcements of significant new aircraft orders, even though Middle East airlines are themselves outperforming the stagnant traffic levels in other parts of the world.

The staggering $155 billion sales tally at Dubai 2007 set a new record for airshows worldwide. Airlines surveyed by AIN on the eve of this week’s event played down expectations of anything close to this volume of business being announced at this year’s show.

Just yesterday afternoon Qatar Airways– which in recent years has been one of the last of the big spenders in the airliner market– canceled its airshow press conference, which had been scheduled for tomorrow morning. And although Airbus has booked no fewer than eight of the 40 allotted press conference slots, it has refused to give any indication of possible new order announcements. Boeing claims not to stockpile orders to announce on the airshow circuit.

Exhibitor numbers for this year’s show will definitely be up–rising by almost 5 percent from the 2007 total of 850 companies–to include 890 firms from 47 countries. While acknowledging that some previous exhibitors have downsized their exhibits, or even canceled them in a bid to cut costs, show organizer Fairs & Exhibitions has taken bookings from no fewer than 150 new companies from 20 countries that have taken the chance to make debuts at the Dubai show.

Much of the growth has been accommodated by the new, 75,000-sq-ft Emirates Hall here at the Dubai Airport Expo site. Six more chalets have also been added.

There is plenty of interest in the lineup of some 130 aircraft booked to appear here. Making their full international debuts are the Chinese AVIC L-15 jet trainer and Boeing’s new AH-6i attack helicopter, which has just made its first flight. Other high-profile participants include the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F-15E, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the no-longer-so-novel but still-impressive Airbus A380. The strong military presence at this eleventh Dubai show reflects the fact that defense spending by Middle East states is anything but suppressed.

Last week Emirates Airline chairman HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum confirmed that the Dubai-based operator will still take its full order of 58 A380s. In a bid to make up for time lost through production delays at Airbus, the carrier is now negotiating to take delivery slots abandoned by other airlines as a result of the downturn. Contrary to incorrect reports in the local press, these would not be new additional aircraft orders.

Commenting on the widespread perception that Dubai’s economic boom has come to an end and that this could spell trouble for the precocious emirate’s show, Sheikh Ahmed told a pre-show press conference: “We have proved to the world and to those who had doubts that the Dubai show will go on.”