By Michel Cousins www.arabnews.com
DUBAI: The 2011 Dubai Air Show, which opens on Nov. 13, is expected to attract 55,000 spectators, the highest number ever according to its organizers, F&E Aerospace.
The biannual five-day event, the prime aviation show in the Middle East and the largest trade fair in Dubai, is also expected to attract more exhibitors that ever.
At a briefing in Dubai on Tuesday, Alison Weller of F&E Aerospace said 150 new companies had already signed up to attend but the figure was expected to rise to 200 by opening day.
Despite the continuing global economic uncertainties and its effects on the region, the Middle East aviation market was bucking the trend, she said.
Altogether, aerospace and aviation companies are expected from over 50 countries.
In particular, more than ever will be coming from the US and from the UAE itself. Among the other 130 aircraft on show will be the first UAE-built helicopter, from Quest. Another “helicopter”’ being exhibited is the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.
In fact, this military tilt rotor aircraft can function as a helicopter or a long-rage turboprop.
Also, for the first time outside China, will be the Xian MA-600 turboprop airliner, a short-haul aircraft, with a capacity of 60 with a price tag of $15 million.
Xian is one of the growing crowd of Chinese companies heading to the show, hoping to grab a slice of the Middle East aviation market.
Chinese exhibitors are up by 10 percent compared to 2009. But so are Canadian exhibitors. They too see the Middle East market at highly promising.
But it appears that it is not just global aviation companies that are heading to the Dubai show. Buyers from beyond the region are as well.
F&E Aerospace says that 20 percent of the visitors now come from outside the Middle East.
That indicates that it is not only seen as place for the international aviation industry to network with potential Middle East customers, it is becoming one of the leading international aviation marketplaces.
In 2009, the 53,000 visitors included 520 civil and military delegations.
But the show is not just about airlines or government organizations placing orders, although Weller expected some would be announced during the show.
Most of the visitors will be individuals and businesses looking to buy, rent, lease or charter aircraft or to find other related services.
“If you’re looking to rent a business jet, we’re the show to come to,” enthused Weller.
There is one departure this year from previous practice. Usually the Dubai show is for trade visitors only, but on Nov. 17, the last day of the show, 500 students from colleges and universities in the Emirates will be invited to attend.
The aim is not to get them to buy. The objective of “Futures Day” as it is called is to encourage them to think of a career in aviation.
There is a serious gap in the supply of local aviation professionals — air crews, pilots, technicians and the like. According to a recent report from the Saudi Aviation Academy, it could stall growth in the Middle East aviation industry. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the prime minister and vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai is said to be particularly focused on this aspect of the show and supportive of it.
The theme of the 2011 air show is the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UAE and will open with a display from Al-Fursan, the UAE’s own aerobatic team.
The Patrouille de France aerobatic team will also participate.
The 2011 show will almost certainly be the last at Dubai airport.
It is getting too big for the site and is to move to Al-Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali.
The size of Chicago’s O’Hare and London Heathrow put together, making it the world’s fourth largest in area, the new airport opened for cargo flights last year.
When complete, with sufficient runways to enable four planes to land at the same time, it will be the world’s largest in terms of passenger capacity.
With three passenger terminals, it is expected to eventually replace the current airport as Dubai’s International at some point in the future.