Vimala Vasan

ABU DHABI, Nov 18

MAJOR deals are expected to be announced at the Dubai Air Show, the largest in the series, which gets under way on Sunday at the Airport Expo Dubai with 726 exhibitors from 46 countries.

The event, which will bring the focus of the global aerospace industry to the Gulf, will feature15 national pavilions, including India, which is participating for the first time with a significant presence.

The show organisers, Fairs & Exhibitions (F&E), are also anticipating major sales announcements with Qatar Airways, Hawker Pacific, Bahrain's Bexair and International Lease Finance already hinting purchases will be unveiled, according to a statement from the organisers.

The show is set for major highlights with the regional flying display debut of the Airbus A380 super jumbo, which will fly in Emirates colours. Also on show will be the first, new generation Gripen fighter jet, the very latest version of Russia's MiG 29 SMT multifunctional combat aircraft, Agusta Westland's EH101 helicopter and the Korean T-50 Golden Eagle advanced trainer, which will use Dubai 2005 for its international aerospace exhibition debut.

The event features a newly-constructed third exhibition hall, a new training and simulation pavilion, an expanded delegations programme featuring civil aviation chiefs, airline presidents, Ministers of Defence, Chiefs of Staff and air force commanders from 88 countries and over 100 aircraft on display - including close to 40 business jets.

"This show has grown by 25 per cent in terms of exhibitor space on 2003, more than 25 per cent in terms of exhibiting companies, and justifies our claim that it is the fastest-growing air show in the fastest-growing aviation region," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President, Department of Civil Aviation, Government of Dubai and Chairman of the Emirates Group.

"West Asia last year led the way on air passenger traffic growth recording a 24.8 per cent rise while freight traffic for the region was again at an all-time high registering 26.8 per cent growth. At the same time, a recent forecast from one of the key airplane makers predicts that the region will acquire more than 1,000 new aircraft, worth some $124 billion in the next 18 years.

"These bullish forecasts have led to increased exhibitor demand which has been accommodated by investment in a third exhibition hall - Central Hall - by the Government of Dubai, which has created an additional 10,000 square metres of exhibition space. This investment underlines the Government's ongoing commitment to this event which clearly demonstrates Dubai's ability to stage world-class industry forums."

Of the 15 national pavilions, three are brand new to the Dubai air show - Austria, Turkey and India, while a total of 130 exhibitors, making up 20 per cent of the profile, are show newcomers with first time participation from Australia, Austria, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Slovak Republic and Oman.

"Growth has come from the introduction of new pavilions, in particular the training & simulation pavilion for which demand was so strong that we had to expand our initial space allocation," said Virginia Kern, Chairman, F&E. "This is not surprising given the pace of growth of some regional carriers and a recent conference report that the Middle East's airlines will need to find up to 4,000 trained pilots over the next 10 years.

The show runs from November 20-24.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 19, 2005)
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