Dubai Airshow 2021: With Billion Dollar Deals on Opening Day, Aviation Recovery Gains Momentum

Civil Aviation

Dubai: The opening day of the Dubai Airshow 2021 edition provided a glimpse to the improvised aviation business sentiments. Brushing aside the Covid-19 impact, the message was clear – Recovery is On.

The show inaugurated by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, started on a positive note. The highlight of day one was a flypast of the UAE’s four national carriers to mark the 50th year celebration of United Arab Emirates foundation. For the flypast, Emirates flew a Boeing 777 with its Year of the 50th livery, alongside A6-EEU, an Airbus A380 wearing the airline’s ambitious Blue expo livery. These were joined by the UAE’s three other national carriers. Etihad with its Boeing 787 Greenliner, FlyDubai with a Boeing 737 MAX 8, and Air Arabia with an A320.

During a media briefing earlier this month, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and group said “the Dubai Airshow is a testament to the Emirate’s response to the pandemic”.

The opening of the Dubai Airshow was a big moment for the aviation events industry and the aviation industry as a whole. After two major air show cancellations and long gestation period, the industry was once again together to celebrate new orders and show off the latest in aerospace technology.

As deals worth more than $37.35 billion were signed on the first day, Airbus stole the day one by grabbing a massive deal of 255 aircraft valued at $33 billion (Dh121 billion) from Indigo Partners. It was one of the biggest deals in the Dubai Airshow’s history.

In another deal on the first day, GAL – a subsidiary of UAE defence technology entity EDGE, was awarded AED 11 billion exclusive contract to service UAE Air Force and Air Defence Aircraft. GAL provides aviation maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO services).

The UAE’s Ministry of Defence and Air Force and Air Defence (AFAD) inked more than AED 16 billion ($4.35 billion) worth of deals. The UAE’s Ministry of Defence awarded multiple contracts to the European and American defence contractors to the tune of AED 5.23 billion on the first day of the Airshow. The two biggest contracts were awarded by the ministry to Airbus Defence and Space and Progressive Technologies to the tune of AED 2.46 billion and AED 2.67 billion, respectively.

Industry executives on the first day, spoke about the future of aviation and the importance of gender equality in the $400 billion sector. Meanwhile, Israel participated in the Dubai Airshow for the first time. A top official from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said the company was looking to sign freight conversion deals with other UAE-based airlines, months after forging a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad airways.

The aviation industry would require around 39,000 aircraft in the next 20 years – predicted Airbus. The demand for new aircraft will include around 29,700 small aircraft like the A220 and A320 aircraft, as well as about 5,300 in the medium aircraft category such as the A321XLR and the A330neo.

During a media briefing ahead of the Dubai Airshow, Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International said, “We’re now towards the end of 2021 and we project the corridor of recovery in global worldwide traffic, that sees us back to pre-COVID levels, sometime between 2023 and 2025”.

The airshow indicated Dubai’s aviation sector bounces back. Emirates and flydubai have slowly restored their networks as major markets opened for travel. Meanwhile, competition in the freight market is heating up with Boeing in discussions to sell a cargo version of its future 777X jet. European rival Airbus is also expecting to strike an A350 freighter deal soon.

Though Boeing didn’t clock any commercial aircraft orders on the first day of the show, they put on a show themselves as 777X took off for its first show flight outside of the United States. The plane took to the skies and flew up and down the flight line having completed an incredibly steep takeoff manoeuver. The jet completed twists and turns roughly 1,000 feet above the show, including some at an impressive bank angle.

The static park and flying display, which featured more than 160 of the world’s most advanced aircraft on ground and in the air was one of the biggest highlights of the show. It also featured stunning aerobatic displays from the UAE Air Force’s Al Fursan, the Russian Knights, the Saudi Hawks, Surya Kiran from India and the Sarang team of the Indian Air Force.

Checkmate, the next generation Sukhoi fighter jet, made its first international debut for the next generation Sukhoi fighter jet. The Boeing 777X and the Leonardo AW609 also made debuts at this year’s airshow.