First Event: The Dubai Airshow is the inaugural event for the exhibition center at the vast Dubai World Central complex. (United Arab Emirates)
WASHINGTON AND LONDON — Organizers describe the Dubai Airshow as the world’s “fastest growing air show,” and this year it is getting even bigger.
As the US and European military markets have cooled in recent years, Middle Eastern defense markets have boomed and the Dubai Airshow has been no exception.
This year, the show is the inaugural event for the exhibition center at Dubai World Central, a vast logistics, airport and industrial complex emerging from the desert at Jebel Ali between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The airport opened for its first commercial flight in late October. The air show was previously held at Dubai International Airport.
Organizers are expecting a considerable number of high-value contract announcements at this year’s show.
“We have a healthy order book in place, and I do see a perfect storm forming [again] and hope we can match and even beat our previous records,” said Sharief Fahmy, chief executive of F&E Aerospace, the Dubai Airshow organizer. “We announced $63 billion worth of [airline] orders in 2011. However, a perfect storm in 2007 led to $150 billion in announcements.”
Fahmy noted that many Middle Eastern nations are looking for an “interim solution” since the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter “is not ready for the region as of yet.”
The Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Dassault Rafale are all scheduled to fly this year.
The air show will consume the entire 645,000-square-foot exhibition space in a single hall about the size of seven American football fields. The space is double the size of the previous Dubai Airshow location.
A major advantage of moving the show from the international airport to Dubai World Central is less commercial flight traffic. This is expected to aid the flight demonstrations.
A US Air Force Boeing B-1 bomber and a Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter, which are both deployed in the region, are expected to conduct flybys during the show.
Fahmy said F&E Aerospace estimates a 5 percent rise in industry attendance. More than 60,000 people are expected to attend. The number of exhibitors booked for the show tops 1,000, up 11 percent on the previous show.
While many US companies have scaled back attendance at European air shows, they are participating heavily in Middle Eastern and Asian exhibitions. US attendance at the show is also expected to increase by 11 percent, Fahmy said.
Dubai is the “world’s fastest growing air show” according to Fahmy. “With Dubai and the Middle East continuing to attract aerospace industry growth, we expect the air show to be part of that expansion,” he said.
“I see Dubai as an international show,” he added. “It is already doing very well connecting east with west, and we intend to improve on that.
“We want to grow the level of engagement with delegations from around the world as we continue to grow as an air show. What I’m hoping to do is develop a global air show for the industry.”