Airshow aims to fire confidence in future of Mideast aviation
Around 450 firms from 33 countries will take part in Dubai's international airshow that starts Sunday, November 4 in what officials say is a solid vote of confidence in the long-term future of aviation in the Middle East.
"We view this international turnout as a solid vote of confidence in the stability of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates and the long-term future of aviation in the Middle East," said Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, president of Dubai's civil aviation department and chairman of its carrier, Emirates.
Rival airliner builders and industry giants Airbus Industrie of Europe and Boeing of the United States, as well as US Lockheed Martin and Canada's Bombardier will all attend Dubai 2001. But Fairchild, Honeywell, Gulfstream, Tag and Rockwell Collins have withdrawn from the show, and organizers concede that some delegations that do turn up might be missing key players.
Exhibition chairwoman Virginia Kern said a total of 48 companies had cancelled in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
The airline industry is one of the sectors hardest hit by the outrages in the United States that left thousands dead, and a fall in passenger traffic owing to a global economic slowdown. Airlines throughout the world have announced tens of thousands of job losses and drops in profits, with fleets and routes to be pared.
"Around 10 percent of our contracted indoor floorspace has been affected by recent events, with most of those companies involved citing economic conditions as the reason for withdrawal," Kern said.
"Security in Dubai has never been in doubt but we have to accept that many companies in this particular industry are now having to reassess their business plans and we suspect this downturn will affect airshows around the world for at least the next 12 months.”
But an upbeat Sheikh Ahmad said the airshow will be graced by trade ministry officials from 34 countries including defense ministers from Britain, Italy, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka and the Gulf States and transport ministers from Cyprus and France.
Also in attendance will be Prince Andrew the Duke of York, more than 80 heads of airlines and civil aviation authorities, and chiefs of staff or air force commanders from all six Gulf Arab states and 30 other countries. Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden and the United States will all showcase their wares at national pavilions, while 51 aircraft will be on display.
"Given the slowdown internationally, I believe manufacturers and suppliers will continue to turn to the Middle East as the major market with growth potential," Sheikh Ahmad said. According to the International Airports Council, the Gulf Arab monarchies alone will spend two billion dollars within the next three years solely on expanding existing facilities, he said.
"Deals should be bigger this year," Sheikh Ahmad predicted, stressing that Emirates will "go ahead with expansion plans" which will see the airline have as many as 210 planes operational by 2010, from a current fleet of 36 planes. In the air, the Hawks of Britain's Red Arrows aerobatic team, the Alphajets of the Patrouille de France and Italy's Frecce Tricolori will provide the thrills.
The Dubai event, the seventh since the launch in 1989, bills itself as the world's third largest airshow along with Singapore after Farnborough in Britain and France's Le Bourget. — (AFP, Dubai)
by Luke Phillips
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)