how do you top an event that broke airshow records in 2007 when it generated $155 billion worth of business in just five days– roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Hungary or Kuwait for an entire year? Fairs & Exhibitions surely never expected the 2009 Dubai Airshow to top its predecessor in terms of sheer monetary value, and indeed the final orders tally–valued at $14 billion–came to less than 10 percent of the 2007 total.
Nonetheless, the show, staged November 15 to 19 in the United Arab Emirates, was by no means a pedestrian affair. Rather, it was a fair reflection of the fact that the Middle East remains just about the only region of the world still achieving significant growth in air transport and where governments are ramping up defense capability across the board.
Dubai’09, in fact, was larger in some respects than the truly exceptional 2007 event, achieving a 5-percent growth in the number of exhibitors, to 890 firms from 850 in 2007. Some companies had cancelled or reduced their participation, but no fewer than 150 new companies from 20 countries arrived in their place.
Dubai’09 served up a tasty platter of 130 aircraft to savor. In addition to favorites such as the Airbus A380, the flying display had some eye-catching novelty in the form of an international debut for China’s new Avic L-15 Falcon jet trainer, Boeing’s AH-6i helicopter and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
Much of the business announced at the show was part of a second wave of investment by Middle Eastern airlines that have been driving an impressive wave of fleet expansion. A prime example of this was Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which rolled out plans to spend some $750 million on its workforce, fleet, in-flight service, and planning and resourcing systems to support record-breaking airplane orders placed over the past 16 months at the Farnborough and Paris airshows.
Etihad signed contracts that included maintenance, retrofits, cabin upgrades and component support for aircraft already in service or scheduled for delivery over the next few years.
The engine sector alone accounted for approximately $3.1 billion in new orders and support contracts announced at the show. Among the big winners were Rolls-Royce, which reported $2.3 billion in new business, including a $1.5 billion contract for Trent 700 turbofans to power 20 A330s for Air China, plus an order for Trent XWB engines for Ethiopian Airlines’ new A350s.
Honeywell also benefited from an apparent second wave of fleet investment by Middle Eastern carriers such as Oman Air, Bahrain Air and Emirates Airline, as well as from India’s Kingfisher. The U.S. avionics, engines and systems group announced approximately $500 million worth of deals covering products such as its latest SmartLanding technology, the MCS-7200 SwiftBroadband satellite communications equipment, avionics suites, navigational lights and APU repair services.
Lufthansa Technik benefited from a contract to install new B/E Aerospace first-class suites in nine A340s. The work will also involve a complete renovation of the cabin, galley areas and a new in-flight entertainment system.
More upgrade work will come under the terms of a deal between Etihad and Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (Adat). This will see the airline’s Boeing 777 fleet upgraded with new economy-class seats and an in-flight entertainment system. Adat will also refurbish A320 cabins.
Switzerland’s SR Technics has been awarded a $250 million component support contract that will give Etihad access to 3,000 aircraft components at its Abu Dhabi base and various key outstations, reducing the carrier’s reliance on its own costly parts inventory. Separately, SR Technics signed a $1.6 billion deal to extend its comprehensive MRO contract to support EasyJet’s Airbus fleet for another 11 years.
Meanwhile, MRO rival Lufthansa Technik announced its own agreement to create a local joint venture with Oman Air. The operation in Muscat is expected to open in 2012 and will be able to take a pair of widebody airliners and two narrowbodies.
Kuwait-based low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways selected Rockwell Collins to supply avionics and in-flight entertainment systems for 30 A320s that it will start receiving next month.
The biggest single civil deal of Dubai’09 came on its first day when Ethiopian Airlines converted a memorandum of understanding for 12 Airbus A350XWBs into a firm order valued at $3 billion.
In total Airbus claimed overall aircraft commitments valued at $5.3 billion at this year’s Dubai show. Additional business came in the shape of a $655 million order for two A380s from Air Austral; a $670 million deal with Senegal Airlines (with the backing of the UAE’s Emirates Group) for four A320s and a pair of A330-200s; and a $258 million contract with Nepal Airlines for an A320 and an A330-200.
Airbus also announced the launch of its new Sharklet range of wingtips for the A320 series. These are expected to reduce fuel burn by around 3.5 percent and boost payload-range and climb performance. Air New Zealand has signed up as launch customer.
Embraer came away from Dubai with a contract worth almost $178 million after selling five E175s to Oman Air. The carrier also holds options for five more of the aircraft, and the first delivery is scheduled for March 2011.
ATR announced a new contract with Lion Air subsidiary Wings Air covering the purchase of 15 ATR 72-500 twin turboprops and options for another 15 of ATR’s new 72-600 series aircraft.
Business Aviation Contingent
Business aviation once again had a high profile at the Dubai Airshow, accounting for roughly a quarter of all the aircraft on display. In tandem with the new Middle East Business Aviation show held by Fairs & Exhibitions in alternating years in Dubai, the region now has a significant bizav forum each year–reflecting the reality that demand for this mode of transportation has continued to rise at a time when western markets have been stagnating.
The show saw what amounts to the relaunch of the NetJets Middle East fractional ownership program. The business was launched in 1999 as a franchise-type operation run by Saudi Arabia’s National Air Service and in this time it has built a relatively modest fleet of 17 aircraft. Now NetJets has moved to reinvigorate the marketing effort for the program with the appointment of Graeme Deary as executive director for business development.
At the show, NetJets Middle East introduced a program built around Dassault’s new Falcon 2000LX. It expects delivery of its first example of this model before the end of the month. It already operates Falcon 2000s and 2000EXs, as well as a mix of Hawker Beechcraft 750s and 850XPs and Gulfstream IV-SPs and G450s.
Saudi Arabia-based Aviation Link signed a deal with NetJets Middle East under which the fractional provider will manage a new Gulfstream G550 in the charter market on its behalf. Aviation Link has also bought a share in a Hawker 750.
Comlux ordered a third Airbus Corporate Jetliner, taking its total orders for the Airbus business jet series to 10.
Meanwhile, the company also signed a new agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Max Aviation to jointly provide charter services in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Europe. Separately, it has reached agreement with Landmark Aviation to build a new FBO at Paris Le Bourget Airport.
Cessna provided graphic evidence that there is still robust demand for business aviation in the Middle East by delivering four aircraft during the show. Arab Wings of Jordan took delivery of a new Citation Sovereign, while the Egyptian Aviation Academy received the first of four Mustangs it has on order and the Algerian government’s navigation authority, ENNA, got a new XLS+ and Saudi Arabia-based Citation distributor Wallan Aviation took delivery of the first Middle East Citation X to be fitted with elliptical winglets, which boost range by 480 nm with six passengers. The modification costs approximately $600,000, including installation.
Cessna also introduced a new on-site customer service program called Service Direct. This will bring scheduled maintenance directly to customers’ own facilities.
Bombardier Aerospace announced that it will offer its commercial aircraft customers in the Middle East ready access to parts through its existing parts depot at Dubai International Airport. In the coming months the manufacturer plans to equip the 2,800-sq-ft facility, which now serves Learjet, Challenger and Global customers, to meet parts requirements for CRJ, Q Series and, eventually, C Series customers in the region. Operated in conjunction with ExecuJet Aviation Group, Bombardier’s Dubai parts depot was established in 2005 and also serves as an authorized service facility for business aircraft customers.
Embraer announced that parts for its business jets are now available in Dubai through a partnership with the UK’s Ceva Logistics. The latter company’s facility in Jebel Ali provides parts for customers in the Middle East, North Africa and India. Some 3,000 spares for the Legacy 600 and Lineage 1000 are already available to customers and authorized service centers. Next year, Phenom 100 and 300 parts will be available, too.
Hawker Beechcraft announced it has completed a package of upgrade measures to extend the life of a fleet of Hawker 125-700 jets being operated by an undisclosed government agency. The program includes the installation of new Universal Avionics digital flight instrumentation and Honeywell’s -3D modification to its TFE731 engines.
Abu Dhabi-based Falcon Aviation Services took delivery of a pair of Bell 412EPs. It has received eight of the type this year.