Thursday, December 2, 2021

DUBAI 2021: RECONNECTING WITH THE SKIES

by Bikram Vohra

Dubai: Alright then, all ye faithful good to see you in Dubai. Over 1200 exhibitors and as many as 20 plus national pavilions, the one show that Covid could not cancel opened its doors in a burst of hopefulness for the aviation industry. Of these there are 371 new operators and Israel exhibits for the first time in the region. It is hoped the next five days will offer a tangible surge across the board as the top players show their cards and send out a collective message. Bruised, battered but not beaten we are back and Dubai Airshow 2021 is concrete evidence of that.

Since Farnborough, le Bourget and Singapore shows were grounded, this makes it the first major coming together and a time to talk, to deal and to sign the bottom line. That excitement after a nearly two year hiatus was palpable here in Dubai this morning as civil and military aircraft, power plant, avionics and subsidiary manufacturers highlighted their wares and underscored the improvements made, but not seen in the past twenty four months.

Naturally, Boeing and Airbus led the ‘curiosity’ stakes and, as is mandatory at every show, one can expect some fireworks from one to the other. Boeing is spearheading its fleet with the arrival of the 777X which is being marketed as the most fuel efficient, cost effective twin operator in the world with a clear replacement intent to the A380’s unfortunate closure. In tandem with the Dreamliner the company plans to reel in some of the losses incurred by the pandemic and the heat and dust raised over the problems with the 737Max

Airbus will volley back with its A330 neo and its partnering with the A350 as the ideal combine on the higher capacity end of the market with the A320 family now strengthened by the A220’s addition for the feeder segments. Airbus has struck a very positive note with a forecast that projects the need for some 39,000 new-build passenger and freighter aircraft, 15,250 of these for replacement by 2040.

With over 85,000 visitors expected and safety protocols severely in place there is also interest in fighter jets and a heavy nostalgia from the Sukhoi 30 cobra manouvres that highlighted air displays in the past at all major shows to the first ever public viewing of the Checkmate fifth generation single-engine, stealth fighter aircraft from the same manufacturer.

The Russians rotor fleet will place on display 6 of its best choppers in order to galvanise the sale of gunships as the best multi-tasking options including sorties over hard terrain.

But it wasn’t just the big boys with the first reported pre-opening deal being an ATR 72-600 going to Angolan charter operator Bestfly. Of interest will be the Global 7500 in the bizzjet category. This long range office in the sky from Bombardier seats 19 and has every possible amenity. It can easily connect New York to Hong Kong non stop.

And Dubai 2021 can reconnect the skies.

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