Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the stratospheric ambitions of the Middle East air transport sector generally, and mind-boggling wealth of the Arabian Gulf states in particular, had expected the 2007 Dubai Airshow to be an epic event. But it is doubtful that anyone outside the top tiers of the region’s airline managements really anticipated the volume of business announced over just five days (November 11 to 15).
According to show organizer Fairs & Exhibitions, the total value of orders announced topped $100 billion that week.
Dubai Airshow organizers opened this 10th event with a prediction that it will be the world’s number-one airshow by the time it reaches its 20th edition in 2027. To some that seemed far-fetched, but considering that the orders announced topped those achieved at recent Paris and Farnborough shows, it might be an attainable goal for a state that is trying to build its economy on an oil-free foundation.
The emirate of Dubai knows it will run out of oil, but it is $100-per-barrel black gold that has provided much of the cash to fuel this boom in aircraft orders. The region’s airlines accounted for about $60 billion of the total (see box below), but business aviation also showed that its time has come in that part of the world. Roughly $2.7 billion in private and corporate jet sales were announced at the Dubai show–more than the approximately $2 billion total at September’s NBAA Convention in Atlanta. Not bad for a sector that used to be little more than a side show in Dubai.
It actually sold only five aircraft in this category, but Airbus nonetheless managed to dominate headlines in this category with the long-awaited announcement of the first customer for a private A380 super-large airliner. HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud stepped forward onto the static display line to sign a deal for a $320 million aircraft. By the time he has factored in an as-yet-unannounced completions contractor and engines, the final tab will likely be about $500 million.
Meanwhile, C Jet of Hong Kong signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to become the first private/corporate customer for the new A350XWB widebody, the so-called A350 Prestige.
C Jet also signed a firm order for one of the A320-derived Airbus Corporate Jetliners (ACJs). This will be managed and operated for it by BAA Jet Management, which already flies an ACJ and has an A318 Elite on order.
The flight department of the Al Jaber Group–a construction, shipping, transportation, manufacturing and logistics consortium based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)–signed letters of interest for two more corporate A380s.
Aerion got the industry’s attention when it announced that it has taken the first two down payments on its planned $80 million supersonic business jet. The refundable $250,000 deposits were placed at the Dubai show by Saudi businessman Dr. Tarek bin Laden and by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Noami, who is head of the Ajman municipality in one of the six UAE emirates.
The SSBJ pioneer also appointed ExecuJet Aviation as its international sales agent outside the Americas and it is now offering 40 early delivery positions.
Embraer had a good show, announcing firm sales for no fewer than 50 of its business aircraft (and options for three more). The total value of this business could reach just over $622 million.
From within the Middle East itself, Falcon Aviation Services of Abu Dhabi signed for four Phenom 300s, three Legacy 600s and one Lineage 1000. Al Jaber Aviation ordered two Legacy 600s (and an option on one more) and five Lineages (and options on two more). Dubai-based Platinum ordered a Legacy.
The rest of the Brazilian manufacturer’s show business came from the following customers: Spain’s Globalia (eight Phenom 100s, two Phenom 300s and one Legacy), Dana Airlines of Nigeria (two Phenom 100s and one Phenom 300) and India’s Invision Projects (18 Phenom 100s and two Phenom 300s).
Dassault sealed an agreement to sell up to seven Falcon 7X long-range trijets to an undisclosed new charter service in Saudi Arabia.
Separately, Saudi Arabia’s National Air Services confirmed an earlier commitment to buy 20 Falcon 2000LXs. Four of these are firm orders, but the French manufacturer expects to conclude the other contracts this month.
The Dubai Airshow also turned out to be fruitful for Cessna. On the eve of the show, its Middle East sales agent, Wallan Aviation, revealed that it is one of several companies to have signed “preferred pricing and delivery agreements” for Cessna’s proposed new Large Cabin Concept aircraft. Wallan has signed for five of these, and the manufacturer expects to be able to convert these into firm orders if, as is now expected, it proceeds to launch the program early next year.
Once the show opened, Wallan got its checkbook out again and ordered 25 Cessna aircraft with a combined value of $110 million–11 Citations and 10 single-engine aircraft, which the Saudi- based company will use to start a new flight-training school. The U.S. manufacturer sold 10 Skyhawks to Ethiopian Airlines, which will use them for ab initio pilot training.
Cairo-based Smart Aviation ordered five more Citation Sovereigns to add to the one that the Egyptian charter operator started service with earlier this year. Lebanon’s Open Sky ordered a pair of Mustangs.
Gulfstream took a share of the Dubai show spoils when Abu Dhabi-based Saraya Aviation signed orders for three G450s.
Separately, International Business Center–also based in Abu Dhabi–ordered a G200 to launch its charter fleet.
The main news from Bombardier was the introduction of the new Learjet NXT, which it quietly launched on October 30. The new jet is intended to fill the gap between the $13.3 million Learjet 60XR and the $21 million Challenger 300. It will feature an eight-passenger cabin, 3,000-nm range and cruise speed of Mach 0.82.
Avionics and engine selections are being negotiated and these won’t be confirmed until next year, at which point more design details will be revealed. The new Learjet will be publicly unveiled next October, and Bombardier announced it won’t be saying anything else about the program timeline until then.
Action Aviation and its new partner Project Phoenix unveiled plans to rework Bombardier’s CRJ200 as a new large-cabin business jet. The refurbished aircraft, known as the CRJ-Phoenix, is expected to sell for around $17.9 million and will offer 3,000-nm range for up to 19 passengers.
Hawker Beechcraft announced the sale of a super-midsize Hawker 4000 and a Hawker 850XP to Sertur Air of Turkey.
Also at the Dubai show, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense and Aviation ordered five King Air 350Cs for use in emergency medical roles.
Eclipse Aviation announced an order for 12 of its Eclipse 500 very light jets.
Grob Aerospace sold two more SPns in Dubai. These will be delivered in 2009 to Egypt’s ZAS Z-Aviation Services, which also took options for two more SPns that could be delivered in 2010.
Helicopter Sales also Soar at Dubai Show
In the helicopter sector, the largest officially confirmed sale was achieved by Sikorsky, which received an order valued at almost $500 million from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior. The contract calls for 16 S-92 heavy twins, 15 S-76D medium twins and 9 Schweizer 434 light singles, with deliveries starting in March. The U.S. manufacturer also won an order from the UAE government for 10 S-70A Black Hawk utility transports.
Unofficially, Russian manufacturer Mil caused a stir by edging Eurocopter out of a $2.2 billion deal to sell helicopters to Saudi Arabia. It will be supplying a mix of its Mi-17 and Mi-35 rotorcraft.
AgustaWestland announced an order for 10 AW139 medium twins to Gulf Helicopters. The subsidiary of Qatar Petroleum will use the helicopters for offshore oil industry transportation.
The Anglo-Italian manufacturer also sold an executive-configured AW139 to the Dubai Air Wing, which will use it to fly royal family members and senior government officials. It also sold an AW119 Ke and a pair of A109 Grands to South African operator Helivip Services, which has signed a multi-year distribution deal that could result in the purchase of about 20 more AgustaWestland helicopters through 2010.
The Dubai Air Wing also gave Eurocopter a contract for a Dauphin AS 365N3 to be used for executive transportation.
Coming Up Next in Dubai… and in Singapore
The 10th staging of the biennial Dubai Airshow drew a record 850 exhibitors, more than 40,000 trade visitors and 140 aircraft. Exhibit space peaked at 377,000 sq ft, but this wasn’t enough for the sold-out show, so the 2009 event will be staged at the new Dubai Exhibition World at the Dubai World Central airport now being built 20 miles from the city center at Jebel Ali. This will offer an initial 452,000 sq ft, but with growth potential to more than double the current show size with 750,000 sq ft.
Full video coverage of Dubai 2007 is available at www.aintv.com.
AIN will be back in Dubai next year to publish daily editions at the new Middle East Business Aviation show (Nov. 23-25, 2008) at the Dubai Airport Expo Center. More details about the show are available at www.meba.aero.
The next international show editions from AIN and AINtv will be at the Singapore Air Show (February 19-24). Exhibitors with news are invited to contact editorial director Charles Alcock at CAlcockAIN@aol.com or call 44 1252 727758.