This year the orders exceeded 49 billion €, putting Airbus again on the winner’s podium. The show is, unlike other similar events, open for trade visitors and media for all the five days. There was a total of 161 aircraft on static display and a record breaking attendance of more than 84.000 visitors.
The biggest contract was signed by Emirates, which ordered 50 Airbus A-350XWB worth approx. 14,5 billion €. However the deal replaces a previous intent to purchase 30 A350s and 40 A330neos. The first aircraft will be delivered in 2023 and will also accommodate a new cabin configuration, that includes a Premium Economy class. Emirates ordered also 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners valued 8 billion €. The contract brings also a reduction of a previous order for 150 777X to 126. The 777X program encountered several problems that postponed the first deliveries to at least 2021.
Another good buyer was the Ministry of Defense of the United Arab Emirates, totaling deals for almost 4,5 billion €.
SAAB signed the biggest one, worth approx. 910 mln € for two additional GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft. The Air Force has already on order three platforms of this type, that are built on a Bombardier Global 6000 base, the first of which will be delivered during the first quarter of 2020 and was already on static display with Swedish markings.
Another important contract, worth 886 mln €, was signed with Halcon Systems, a local company that is part of the newly established UAE industrial conglomerate EDGE. Halcon will provide the MoD with various ammunitions. An important agreement, for 24 COIN aircraft Calidus B-250, was signed with the Emirati company Calidus. The structure of the B-250 is made entirely from carbon fiber. The plane has a maximum endurance of 12 hours. The payload is up to 1.800 kg on seven hardpoints (six under the wings and one under the fuselage).
The MoD announced the intention to double the A330 MRTT fleet to six aircraft, but the details and the timings of the deal were not disclosed. The fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-9s will be upgraded by Dassault for 450 mln €. The UAE Air Force operates 57 Mirage 2000s and has eight planes of the same type currently in storage. The UAE has a fleet of more than 500 military aircraft (304 Air Force, 200 Joint Air Command and 20 Navy).
Coming back to the biggest manufacturers, Airbus scored an outstanding order from the low-cost carrier Air Arabia for 120 A320 family aircraft worth approx. 12,6 billion € at list prices (73 A320neo, 27 A321neo and 20 A321XLR). The U.S. based lessor GECAS announced the firm order for 12 A330neos and 20 A321XLRs. Flynas, first Saudi Arabia’s LCC, signed a firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The A320 family in October overtook the rival 737, both the aircraft totaled more than 15.000 orders and with the new deals arranged in Dubai Airbus first position is in strong hands. The A220 had more luck in Africa, 8 A220-300 will go to Air Senegal, securing the European manufacturer a total of 220 orders at the show.
Boeing was, again, not so successful. The never ending story of the 737MAX is damaging reputation and economics of the American giant and the delays of the 777X are even deepening the bad momentum. Including the previously cited contract with Emirates, Boeing secured a total of 97 orders and commitments at the show. Biman Bangladesh Airlines signed for two more 787-9 Dreamliners (the deal was already recorded in October as an unidentified order on Boeing’s website). The value of the contract is valued at 531 mln € (list price). The Bengali airline has already in fleet four 787-8, the additional two Dreamliners will be delivered before the end of the year. Egypt Air, that has started flying with the 787 this year, ordered two additional 787-9, both will be leased from Aer Cap. The Government of Ghana plans to re-launch the national carrier and signed a memorandum of understanding for three 787-9 aircraft.
The 737MAX received its first firm order after the grounding, with the Turkish leisure airline SunExpress signing for ten MAX 8. Air Astana signed a Letter of Intent for 30 MAX8, to be used by its new LCC FlyAristan. An undisclosed customer placed a firm order for 20 737 MAX (ten MAX7 and 10 MAX10, the latter was first rolled out in Renton’s factory on 22nd November.
Embraer rebranded the strategic airlifter KC-390 into C-390 Millennium and announced the joint venture Boeing – Embraer Defense to market it. The original designation, KC-390, will be still used for the aircraft with air refueling capability (note that the new markings were put off the Brazilian Air Force aircraft that was on display at Dubai before it left to Brazil).
The Brazilian – Boeing owned company sold three E195-E2 to the Nigerian airline Air Peace and three E190 to CIAF Leasing.
De Havilland Aircraft of Canada reached a good success for its Dash 8-400 aircraft. Elin Group from Nigeria and ACIA Aero Capital signed a firm commitment for three planes each. Palma Holdings, a Dubai based lessor signed a LOI for 20 airplanes. Another LOI for five aircraft was announced from Aurora, a Russian regional carrier that has already in fleet eight Dash 8s. The Republic of Ghana will need also some turboprops for the planned re-launch of the new carrier and signed a LOI for six Dash 8-400, totaling the orders of the Canadian manufacturer at the show to 37.
ATR, who obtained a strong success in Paris, and Mitsubishi did not announce any order during the show and they did not have any of their aircraft on static display.
Bell sold to Horizon International Flight Academy from Abu Dhabi 12 light helicopters Bell 505 Jet Ranger X. Abu Dhabi Aviation signed with Leonardo for three intermediate helicopters AW139s and two light-intermediate AW169s, all to be delivered by 2020. Petroleum Air Services of Egypt ordered one AW139. Now they already operate five helicopters of that type.
VR Technologies, a subsidiary of Russian helicopters, presented the mock up of the light helicopter VRT-500, which is scheduled to first fly next year. The company signed a dealership agreement with Rotorcraft Nordic AB to supply ten VRT-500 to Scandinavian countries. The helicopter has now a logbook for 15 units. An even more important announcement was made by Tawazun, the UAE defense and security industry development, who took a 50% stake of VR Technologies. The two companies will invest 400 mln € in the development of the new helicopter and there is a possibility that one assembly line will be established in the UAE. The company is targeting to sale 1000 helicopters by 2035.
Within the airshow there were organized several conferences. Cargo Connect had as the main topic “The future of trade mobility”. The cargo sector is experiencing a contraction. The air freight tonnes kilometres fell compared to previous year as the global trade is weakening. On the other hand, the shipment count is rising as many smaller shipments replaced the bigger ones. Roxo, a delivery bot exhibited by FedEx impressed the attendees of the conference and the visitors of the show. The UAE Space Agency hosted the Space Tech Talks and the Women in space conferences. The UAE sent their first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, on board the ISS in September. Space exploration is becoming more and more interesting for the Arab countries and at the conference there were also discussions to create a collaborative Arab Space Agency. Among the speakers there was also colonel Al Worden, who served as the command module pilot of Apollo 15. The remote towers and how to increase air traffic safety were the key topic of the Global Air Traffic Management conference.
Last, but not least, The National Search and Rescue center of the UAE organized the two day Search&Rescue UAE conference.
Aviation is going green
One of the main focuses of the show was on sustainability of aviation. Airbus unveiled project “fello’fly”. Inspired by birds that are flying in formation, they want to reduce fuel consumption by 5 to 10% of a follower aircraft by flying the smooth updraft of air that creates the leading aircraft. The first test will begin in 2020 using two A350s and they expect the enter into service before the middle of the next decade. The project is really ambitious, as they will have to work hard to ensure a high level of safety for the aircraft involved. Airbus is also the official founding partner of Air Race E, an electric air racing series set to start next year. One electric race plane was unveiled at the Airshow. Air Race E CEO and founder Jeff Zaltman said: ““This is a pivotal moment not only for Air Race E, but for the aviation industry as a whole. Our aim by establishing an electric racing series is to develop a unifying platform for the development of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric aircraft. The racing series will provide a testbed for innovation and accelerate the journey towards electric commercial travel. We’ve now shown it is possible and are on track to again create history when planes like the one on display at the Dubai Airshow take to the skies for the race next year.”
Boeing and Etihad announced that one of the airline’s Dreamliners will be used as a flying laboratory to reduce fuel consumptions and carbon emissions. The “Greenliner” will periodically serve as test bed for environmental sustainability initiatives.
The static display was more than worthy an in-depth visit. Dubai Airshow has become one of the world’s most important showcases for the aviation industry and that was clear while looking at the vast assortment of aircraft parked on the apron. As usual at these events, some aircraft were on display just for some days, while the majority was present for all the five days of the Airshow.
The Emirati Armed Forces presence was massive: from helicopters (AH-64D Longbow Apache, Bell 407, Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk) to fixed wing aircraft (Twin Otter, A330 MRTT, C-17, C295, F-16 Block 60, Mirage 2000-9 and the MB-399s of the Al Fursan aerobatic team).
The US DoD had on display a large selection of military aircraft of the USAF and Navy. From the legendary A-10 Thunderbolt II with its GAU-8 Avenger gatling gun to the newest F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor there was plenty to see.
The US Navy had a giant MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter, various F-18s, an E-2D Hawkeye AEW, while the USAF showed off also an E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, a F-15E Strike Eagle from Lakenheath (UK), two F-16s from Aviano (Italy), a C-130J and a KC-46A Pegasus.
The other military guests comprised the Saudi Hawks with eight BAe Hawks and a C-130 as a support plane, the French Armée de l’Air with the aerobatic team Patrouille de France and a Dassault Rafale, the RAF with the Eurofighter Typhoon and an Airbus A-400M, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force with a strategic airlifter Kawasaki C-2.
Emirates displayed an A-380 and a 777-300 both in special colors for the Dubai Expo 2020, while Etihad came to the show with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in the livery dedicated to the Manchester City football club. Both airlines had on display some aircraft of their flying schools: Emirates a Cirrus SR-22 and an Embraer Phenom 100EV, Etihad a Phenom 100.
Airbus showcased (beside the aircraft already mentioned) an A330neo, an A320neo of the Oman based LCC SalamAir, an A350XWB of Fiji Airways, one ACJ319 and two aircraft of EgyptAir: one A220-300 and the freighter A330-200F. The helicopters were represented by a H225 of the Kuwaitian Police.
Furthermore there was also an A340 VVIP of Citadel Completions sunbathing between an Il-76 and a 737BBJ.
Boeing had also a nice vinyl wrapped special color 787-9 “Dreams take flight” and the experimental VTOL.
Embraer brought the special color E195-2 “Profit Hunter”, the C-390 Millennium with the new markings already on it, a Super Tucano and two bizjets: a Phenom 300E and a Praetor 500.
Continuing with the bizjets Dassault had on display a Falcon 8X, a Falcon 900EX and the mock up of the cabin of the Falcon 6X.
Gulfstream showed the G500, the G600 and the G650.
Pilatus had only a PC-24 (the interior was more luxurious that in the one displayed in Paris), to complete the list of bizjets there were also the Honda Jet and the Cirrus Vision SF50.
Textron hosted in its dedicated space a Cessna Latitude, an amphibian Caravan, a mock up of the Bell 525, a Bell 505 and a Horizon’s Bell 429 Global Ranger.
Russians had a Yakovlev Yak-130 and the Mil Mi-38 was shown outside Russia for the first time. The helicopter was in a VIP configuration and will be used by the most important Russian political authorities. The smaller ANSAT made also its appearance and, as the previous two aircraft, performed a flying display. The VRT-500 has still to make its first flight and a mock up welcomed the visitors. The light helicopter will have a a pair of coaxial rotors.
Leonardo exposed a M-346FA “Fighter Attack” with the decal of the International Flight Training School. Next it there was a MALE UAV Falco Xplorer, first unveiled this June in Paris.
Not to mention all the aircraft, I will end the static display report a few more interesting sights. One was for sure the locally built Calidus B-250. A COIN plane with a long endurance and a large palette of different weapons, as could be seen from the image. Another rare bird to see in the Western countries was the Pakistani built PAC Super Mushshak, an improved version of the Saab Safari that could be used also as a light attack aircraft, carrying up to 300 kg of external loads.
The Chinese did not have any airplane or helicopter on display, but they brought two UCAVs: the CAIG Wing Loong I and II, that are used also by UAE Air Force, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and other African and Asian countries.
The flight displays were scheduled every day from 2pm to 5 pm. The program was not the same on every day and I did not see every performance. In my personal chart I will put in first position the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. The plane, the maneuvers and the sound were just insane.
The pilot showed the amazing capabilities of the most advanced fighter in USAF service to the public that was staring at the Raptor while it was performing in the sky. If you have a chance to go to an airshow with a Raptor’s demo you can’t miss it, it is alone worth the price of the admission ticket.
The Emirati pilots did a brilliant job representing the capabilities of the Mirage 2000 and the F-16.
The Americans flew also with a couple of F-35s and the F-15.
The French Rafale is always one of the most interesting fighters to see and this time it was not an exception. The Russian Yakovlev Yak-130 roared in the sky too, the advanced trainer was initially developed in collaboration with Aermacchi and achieved a discrete success in foreign sales.
A nice surprise was also the Kawasaki C-2 that did not perform in Paris in June. You can’t expect too much spectacle from such a big plane, but its still something impressive.
The exhibition of the Dreamliner in the “Dreams take flight” livery was thrilling from the beginning, as the 787 took off and climbed almost like a military jet.
The helicopters were a Russian prerogative, with the big Mil Mi-38 and the smaller ANSAT. Nice flying, but after you’ve seen so many military jets seems that you are watching a movie in slow motion.
The aerobatics teams were represented by The Blades, the Patrouille the France and Al Fursan. The Blades are a civilian team flying with four Extra 300s capable of high G maneuvers. The pilots have a background in the Royal Air Force and are the world’s only aerobatic airline to fly passengers in formation during their flying experience days.
The Patrouille the France brought the colors of the French flag high in the sky. They showed a lot of formation flying and technical skills. I saw them many times but they still don’t impress me as the Red Arrows or the Frecce Tricolori.
The Emirati team Al Fursan flyes the same type of plane than Frecce Tricolori. The seven MB339s performed some impressive acrobats, including some usually seen during the display of their “older brothers” - the Italian Frecce Tricolori, as the “volo folle” of the soloist.
They ended the display with their distinctive “UAE DNA” maneuver that left in the sky the Emirati colors for a while, even after they landed in two formations of respectively three and four planes. Their landing on Thursday also closed this edition of the Airshow.
The Dubai Airshow has become one of the world’s most important aviation trade shows. The biggest names of the industry showcase their products and make important deals. Dubai is not only a place to do business with the Gulf countries it is also a place that can grant you access to Africa and Asia.
There is a strong demand both from Emirati companies and the Government. The country is growing and besides being an aviation hub is also one of the most important military powers of the region. The MoD is shopping all around the globe. Their fighter jets are American and French, some UCAV are Chinese, the airport was protected by a Russian S/A missile system Pantsir and so on…
The creation of EDGE it is an important milestone for the local industry. The UAE are not only a buyer, but also a producer of technically advanced equipment and weapons. The capabilities of the local manufacturers are great and the Calidus B-250 is a proof of that, as it is the large deal for various ammunition made by Halcon. All of this was achieved with huge investments in knowledge and infrastructure and the Emirati should be proud of it.