Billed as the Middle East’s "fastest growing airshow," the biennial Bahrain International Airshow achieved a 70 percent increase in exhibitors in 2018, according to the organizer, as event timing moved to November to dovetail more neatly with the Dubai Airshow.
Established in 2010, the event has become a major fixture in the Middle East’s aerospace calendar. Show organizers claimed that more than $5 billion in aerospace orders and commitments were confirmed, led by SaudiGulf’s order for 10 A320s, some $93.4 million in Bahrain aviation industry investments announced, and that there was a 35 percent increase in total participating companies. Exhibition space doubled to accommodate new stands, while international companies accounted for two-thirds of participating exhibitors.
“The success witnessed over the…three days affirms Bahrain International Airshow’s position as the fastest growing airshow in the Middle East. The senior international government officials and top-level executives attending reflect the value of the show as a platform for business. It is also a great opportunity to showcase the [occasion] as one of the major global events [in] the aerospace…calendar,” said Engr. Kamal Mohammed, Bahrain’s Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications.
Airlines Look Ahead
Several airlines provided updates to AIN. Kuwait Airways said it has 25 aircraft in the fleet, a figure that will increase to 38 aircraft by the end of 2026. Today, the fleet includes 10 B777-300s, seven A320s, and five A330s. “Today, the 10 B777s are owned by Kuwait Airways. The A330s are al leased aircraft and will be replaced by eight A330-800neos, and the old A320s will be replaced by 15 A320neos and five A350-900s,” Kuwait Airways chief operating officer, Capt. Abdul Haleem Zaidan, told AIN.
Privatization went awry in 2013, and the airline awaits further updates from the government about its plans for the airline, which offers flights from New York in the west to Manila in the east. Recently appointed chairman, Yousef Al Jassim, and CEO, Engr. Kamel Al Awadi, have been drawing up new plans for the airline. Zaidan said Kuwait City would change from a transit to a point-to-point destination. “We have got our own terminal at Kuwait Airport. This will be the [airport’s] biggest terminal,” he said.
‘Corporate airline’ Saudi Aramco’s fleet comprises approximately 45 aircraft, including six Boeing 737s and three Gulfstreams, of which two are G650s, and around 25 helicopters. Unit Aramco Overseas Company signed a deal in July for delivery of 21 AW139s from Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A. over three years. The company’s fixed-wing unit caters to the travel requirements of Aramco staff, while helicopters are often dispatched to offshore platforms for personnel and supply.
Around 110 aircraft were on static display, including an Emirates A380, the Saudi Arabian Airlines B787 Dreamliner, a Kuwait Airlines A330, a Gulf Air A320, as well as the Saudi Aramco B737, the Gulfstream G650ER and G500, the Embraer Legacy 500 operated by Lebanon’s Cedar Executive, and the Phenom 100s operated by the flight training schools of Emirates and Etihad. Germany’s FAI Aviation Group also had the Challenger 850 on display. Several military aircraft and helicopters also featured.
Ahmed told AIN that Bahrain International Airport also intended to develop a General Aviation Terminal based in the airport’s original building to improve services for premium travelers, planned to open in December 2019. A designer has been appointed and the local Gulf Engineering house to carry out the works. “We [plan to use] the first airport in the Gulf [which began operations in the 1930s]. We will use the building for different VIP and private jet customers,” he told AIN.
Making their debut at the show, the UAE’s Al Fursan display team were joined by Italy’s Frecce Tricolori and the Russian Knights. “We’ve seen high demand for slots in the flying display underscoring Bahrain’s status as the region’s preeminent airshow,” said Amanda Stainer, commercial director, Farnborough International Ltd, co-organizers of the Bahrain International Airshow.
The exhibition boasted five new international pavilions in 2018, hosted by companies representing the UAE, U.S., Russia, Romania, and Kuwait. BIAS takes place at Sakhir Airbase, just east of the Bahrain International Formula 1 Circuit, located in the center of the island of Bahrain, and enjoys good road links to the airport, 24 miles to the northwest. The next Bahrain show takes place on November 19-20, 2020.