The Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show made a strong debut in its new home at the Dubai World Central site, with organizers reporting attendance 20 percent up on the 2010 event at 7,549 trade visitors from 84 countries. The 2012 show drew 385 exhibitors from 45 countries, a 14-percent boost on the previous event.
The three-day event (December 11 to 13) had to be staged in what will be a passenger terminal for low-cost airlines at DWC (also known as Al Maktoum International Airport) because the planned purpose-built exhibition center is still under construction. However, the new facility is expected to be ready to accommodate both the 2014 MEBA show and the Dubai Air Show in December 2013.
Despite continued high hopes for further business aviation growth in the Middle East, the 2012 MEBA proved to be low-key in terms of aircraft sales announcements. But, as usual, manufacturers and service providers were busy putting together alliances to enable them to serve the region better.
“In general, the response to the Dubai World Central setting was positive, particularly the ease of getting there from the new Dubai areas, but certain participants in 2014 will find themselves in a business aviation hub as DWC’s fixed-base operating tenants–including Jetex, ExecuJet and Jet Aviation–will be fully operational by then,” commented Alison Weller, managing director of show organizer F&E Aerospace. “It will be a focused atmosphere in a market that is rebounding.”
Organizers have already announced their intention to expand new segments of the MEBA show focusing on helicopters and luxury lifestyle. Also new for 2012 were national pavilions for U.S. exhibitors and for Malta, which has a growing business aviation service sector.
MEBA 2012 was officially opened by HH Sheikh bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline. He was joined by HH Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, foreign trade minister for the United Arab Emirates; Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker; Middle East Business Aviation Association chairman Ali Al Naqbi (see box); Dubai World Central chairman Khalifa Al Zaffin and Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths.
Manufacturers Make Inroads
Dassault Aviation achieved the only acknowledged aircraft sales of MEBA 2012 when Saudi Arabia-based Wallan Aviation signed for a pair of Falcon 900s. The sale is a breakthrough with Wallan, which is a long-standing Cessna distributor in the region.
By the end of last year, Wallan was due to take delivery of a pre-owned Falcon 900EX EASy II, with a new 900LX to follow in this year’s second quarter. The company will operate the aircraft for its own use, but will make them available for charter as well.
Dassault also announced that for deliveries from 2014 onwards Falcon 7X owners can opt to have OnAir’s mobile telephone and Internet service installed. OnAir announced the selection of Pats Aircraft Systems as an approved installer for its systems.
The desire to meet its goal of delivering the first G650s and G280s prevented Gulfstream Aerospace from bringing the recently certified duo to MEBA, but it did display a G450 and a G550 in Dubai. “The G650 has gained wide acceptance in the Middle East,” said senior vice president sales and marketing Scott Neal, explaining that the first of the new long-range aircraft is due to enter service in the region by year-end.
Gulfstream has boosted its sales force with the appointment of Allan Stanton as regional vice president for international sales in the Middle East. He was previously regional sales director for Hawker Beechcraft in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey and has lived in Dubai for several years.
Boeing Business Jets hosted its MEBA press conference in a Comlux 767-200 widebody that made the trip to Dubai from its base in Bahrain. The manufacturer said it was on track to deliver 12 BBJs and have another dozen enter service before the end of 2012. Almost one-third of all BBJ sales are now made in the Middle East, and these include eight of the nine new 747-8s ordered so far. Boeing also has now sold 12 of its new 787 Dreamliner widebodies for private use.
Airbus Corporate Jets used MEBA as the venue to launch its new Gala cabin concept to freshen up its ACJ330/340 widebodies. The A330 also has benefitted from various improvements to reduce fuel burn and increase maximum takeoff weight to give it greater range.
Also featured in Dubai was the new ACJ318 Enhanced, developed to give greater cabin commonality with the slightly larger ACJ319/320/321. The European airframer reported that the ACJ318 is already proving popular with Middle Eastern customers, who tend to travel in larger groups, due to its generous baggage capacity.
Airbus also announced that a new runway overrun protection system (Rops) will be available this year. The new system compares the aircraft’s energy state and landing performance with the available runway length. It issues warnings to pilots during final approach if the runway length from the projected touchdown point is too short, helping them to decide whether to initiate a go-around.
Hawker Beechcraft arrived in Dubai for what may well prove to be its last airshow appearance under that name. Thousands of miles away a court in New York City was trying to determine the terms under which it might emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, jettisoning its jet products and re-establishing itself as a turboprop-only manufacturer as Beechcraft Corporation (see article on page 6).
The U.S. company’s new identity was already evident on the MEBA static display line, to which it brought its full line-up of civil King Airs, including the latest 350i, the 250 and the C90GTx. It claims to have the largest number of turboprop airplanes in the Middle East, totaling more than 140 aircraft, and says that the King Air series accounts for more than 70 percent of the market in the region.
Bombardier’s contribution to the MEBA static display consisted of a Challenger 605, Challenger 850 and Global 5000. It also demonstrated its new Vision flight deck, featuring a synthetic-vision head-up display. To support growing sales in the region, the Canadian airframer recently appointed Qatar Executive as a line maintenance facility for Challengers and Globals.
Embraer gave a Middle East debut to its Legacy 650 large-cabin jet and displayed its Phenom 100 very light jet and flagship Lineage 1000 bizliner. The 650 on display in Dubai featured a new cabin interior consisting of three zones for up to 14 passengers, as well as improved sound insulation, a wet galley and a large baggage compartment accessible during flights. The Brazilian airframer already has 35 Legacys in service in the Middle East and recently delivered the 200th example of the type.
During the show, Embraer announced it has strengthened its customer support network in the Gulf region by appointing Dubai-based ExecuJet Aviation Middle East as an authorized service center for the Phenom 300 and Lineage 1000.
New Products Launched
Arinc Direct showcased its new Connect Communication System (CCS) and ADConnect App in Dubai. CCS combines complete Acars messaging, high-quality voice communications and managed email functions. Its two-channel set-up allows simultaneous voice and data communications. The ADConnect App allows passengers to use their own smartphones in flight rather than having to switch to dedicated aircraft handset satcom calls.
Brabus Private Aviation was formally launched at MEBA as a new aircraft design and completion management company, bringing together four respected names from the automotive and aviation worlds: Brabus, PrivatAir, Ruag Aviation and Happy Design Studio. Brabus has earned much of its reputation for car design in the work it has done for Mercedes-Benz and now it is seeking to tap the aviation pedigree of the other three partners.
UAE-based flight planning and support group Hadid International Services announced it has been selected by the new African Business Aviation Association as a founding member. The company is active in supporting operators with trips in Africa and already has offices in Niger and Algeria.
Monaco-based aircraft sales company Boutsen Aviation came to the MEBA show for the first time since launching its new cabin interiors division. This specializes in providing linen, crockery and other “loose equipment” for business jets. Boutsen has created a database for each client so that they can have a precise inventory of glasses, plates and other equipment on board.
Emergency support specialist MedAire introduced its new Advanced Aviation Medical Kit to meet mandated requirements while also saving space in the aircraft and providing solutions for many critical and common medical incidents. The new kit includes an annual refurbishment by the supplier to ensure that everything inside is current and replenished.
Czech Republic-based aircraft management and charter group ABS Jets has started providing operations control center services and other support to operators based in the Gulf region. From its facilities in Prague and Bratislava, the company also provides aircraft maintenance, sales and consulting services.
Jet Aviation’s staffing provider, Jet Professionals, announced two new joint ventures at the MEBA show. Through new alliances with Future Stream and EDI-Staffbuilders, the Switzerland-based company will expand its ability to supply skilled staff in, respectively, Japan and the Philippines.
Airliner maintenance group Sabena Technics reported that the Middle East has already proved fertile territory for its expansion into VIP completions. Its facility in Bordeaux, France, is working on a trio of ACJs and BBJs for clients based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Charter group ExcelAire launched a new international transfer service that may well appeal to Middle Eastern travelers arriving in the U.S. via scheduled airline flights. The operator will meet clients at the New York City-area John F. Kennedy International Airport or Newark Airport and transfer them to private jets for onward journeys. Its fleet includes the Bombardier Global 5000 and Gulfstream IV-SP and V.
The Malta Business Aviation Association combined with the country’s transport department to exhibit with around 30 local companies seeking to promote the advantages of its growing aircraft registry. The Mediterranean island is part of the European Union and is seeking to market itself as a user-friendly alternative to some of the larger and more bureaucratic jurisdictions.
Growing volumes of traffic from the Middle East are among the factors driving Paris Le Bourget FBO Advanced Air Support to expand its facility in development work that is due to begin in the middle of this year and be complete in late 2014. The expansion, costing around $50 million, will allow access to widebody aircraft directly from its main lounge, where security checks can be conducted.
Middle Eastern prospective aircraft buyers are prominent among visitors to The Jet Business in central London, where Steve Varsano and his team help them to choose from available pre-owned stock around the world. Now the company has introduced an iPad app that allows them to make cabin interior outfitting choices on its 26-foot screen.
For flight training group CAE the MEBA show marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of its Emirates-CAE Flight Training Center (EFTC) near Dubai International Airport. The company has just appointed Robert Lewis as its new vice president and general manager of business aviation, helicopter and maintenance training. He sees great scope for increased throughout EFTC, given the large number of new business aircraft heading for the Middle East. CAE was the first training provider to give bizav pilots from the region the option of training in the Middle East.
The Saudi Aviation Flight Academy has established a new training facility at Thumamah airfield, about 17 miles north of Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport. The school is using Diamond DA40 NG piston singles to train prospective professional pilots.