BILL READ and HARRY LAWSON present their final report of the week from the fourth day of the Dubai Airshow 2015 where there was nothing flying in the air but plenty of activity on the ground.

The high winds didn’t deter visitors from venturing outside

The fourth day of the Dubai Airshow heralded a change in the weather, as high winds blew sand into the air and caused the cancellation of the afternoon’s flying display. However, it remained hot and sunny and there was still plenty of interest to see on the ground.

As this year’s air show draws to a close, it is time to reflect on its significance for both exhibitors and visitors. Although the total value of business deals announced this week has not yet been formally announced, it will be well below the record $206.1bn worth of orders made at the previous show in 2013. Indeed, a rough count of the annouced aircraft deals below comes to around $20.25bn at list prices. It also has to be remembered that some of these (Jet Airways and IAG) were previously announced or were orders that were firmed up as well. Adding services and support deals signed at the show (the $16bn Emirates/GE was particalurly notable) will obviously add to the sales total and bring it to $36.25bn - but again this is just a fraction of the 2013 sales bonanza.

Does that mean that the aerospace industry is in a slump? Not really. Both Airbus and Boeing are sitting on giant backlogs of seven years production or more. Their priority is now getting aircraft out of the door. Second airlines, after splurging on new aircraft in recent years are now able to pause and take stock - thanks to the low oil price.

However - there are two noteworthy absences from the show orders - the A380 and the CSeries. Airbus is now running out of time for its 2015 sales target for the A380, and is still mulling the commercial viability of the A380neo. Meanwhile the CSeries, after an impressive showing at the Paris Air Show in the summer, did not translate to new orders announced at Dubai. On track fior certification, the programme has has been thrown a lifeline by the Quebec Government - but it still needs more sales.


Scores on the door

Airbus's sole ACJ319neo sale (Airbus)

This year the total number of aircraft orders announced has been – comprising:

25 Boeing 737Max 8s to Jet Airways plus 50 options ($8bn)

30 Airbus A320 family aircraft for Vietjet ($8bn)

19 Airbus ( 4 x A330s, and 15 A320neos) for IAG ($2.5bn at list prices)

Six Irkhut Mc-21 narrowbodies for Cairo Aviation plus four options (an order that is linked to a maintenance co-operation deal) ($510m at list prices)

One ACJ319neo for charter operator K5 Aviation ($98m)

Two Saab ($1.2bn) Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS) aircraft for the UAE Air Force ($1.2bn)

Three AW609 tiltrotors for UAE Joint Aviation Command (estimated $75m)

Although the number of aircraft sales was no-where near as large as 2013, it must be borne in mind that there is already a large backlog of existing orders waiting to be delivered to the region. As for the future, Airbus released a new regional forecast at the show which predicted that Middle East operators will need an additional 2,250 new aircraft over the next 20 years.


Civil defence jetpacks to the rescue

An additional rather smaller flying platform sale was announced when New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft and the Dubai’s Civil Defence Force signed a memorandum of understanding for up to 20 Martin Aircraft Jetpacks. The jetpacks will be used for reconnaissance and rescue operations in a ‘first responder’ role with the potential to be used primarily in fire department operations, focusing particularly on the many skyscrapers that populate Dubai’s horizon. There is also a possibility that the pilot could control a ‘mule-train’ of remotely controlled jetpacks to rescue multiple people in one outing. However, there is still a concern the personal aircraft, powered by a 200hp V4 engine, may not be quiet or fuel efficient enough for general and prolonged use. Deliveries will start next year but no financial details have been released.


One of many - SAEI and AFI MRO signing.

Engine manufacturers also had a good week, as did the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector which has announced a wide range of new or renewed deals to support both airline aircraft fleet and engines. There were also plenty of new contracts for equipment. As an example, today Rockwell Collins signed up a number of new contracts, including supplying training simulator equipment to Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines while Teledyne Controls won a deal to equip communication systems to Emirates’ 777-300ERs,


Defence manufacturers came to Dubai from all around the world - including a large Russian presence

The defence market, as already mentioned in yesterday’s blog, is proving a little sluggish with new orders proving elusive and existing deals (such as a Kuwaiti deal for 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets) being frustrated by delays to the US Government approval process.The UAE's $10bn order for 60 Rafales also failed to materalise at the show, although the UAE AF did say it was in the 'final stage' of negotiations.

However, there were some surprises in the form of UAE AF orders for two Saab spyplanes, AW609 tiltrotors for the Joint Aviation Command and even for jetpacks (above).


V-22 Osprey tiltrotor

It is no surprise that one of the biggest suppliers of military aircraft and technology to the Middle East is the US. The US Department of Defence’s static display showcases many of the aircraft in use in operations and around the Middle East. AEROSPACE was given a tour of the pen and had the opportunity to interview the flight crews present. The general consensus from the personnel, representing the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, is that they enjoy operating their respective aircraft . When asked what technology upgrades they are looking forward to, many, from the heavy lift section comprising of the CH-47 Chinook and Lockheed Martin C130 variants, is that they would like to increase their weight/lift range. In particular, the implementation of more armour on the aircraft decreases the weight the aircraft can transport and the speed at which it can travel. The display also included the Boeing P-8 Poseidon and Boeing's lower-cost MSA (Maritime Surveillance Aircraft) .


The future is orange - UAE-produced Yabhon UAV

There have also been some interesting developments with indigenous products – particularly in the UAV sector. Abu Dhabi-based Adcom Systems showcased a number of drone designs – including a mock-up of its new large Global Yabhon UAV.


Come to Dubai to meet your clients and future clients

Although business activity was perhaps a little slower than previous years, there are few exhibitors or visitors who are sorry that they came. As well as providing a showcase for a worldwide range of products and services, the event also provides an important function in bringing representatives from the international aerospace industry to the UAE to meet and network and discuss business opportunities in the rapidly developing Middle East region. Helicopter and business jet manufacturers find coming to the show worthwhile, as do representatives from the aerospace service sector, including MRO companies, training providers and security specialists. “We do not come to the Dubai show primarily for new business but to see our clients,” said Claude Albert, VP & MD Europe, Middle East & for Rockwell Collins.


3D printed ballerina

A special feature of the exhibition was the 3D Pavilion – an area dedicated to the rapidly evolving technology of additive manufacturing. Exhibitors included 3D printer manufacturers and suppliers, designers and artists – with an eye-catching variety of inventive designs and applications. Among the stands were a company producing 3D printing pens which allowed people to create their own designs, a device that could scan faces and print miniature figurines of yourself, models of Dubai landmarks and a large display of 3D printed sculptures from artists. There were also representatives from raw material suppliers, including the Shenzen Esun Industrial Company from China specialised in producing different grades of plastic filaments which could be used in 3D construction. The filaments varied in texture so that it was possible to print objects that ranged from soft and flexible, light, thin and rigid; and as hard and solid as potter

3D printed Starship Enterprise made with a 3D printing pen


A selection of BeAM’s industrial 3D printed metal components

While the products on show at the 3D Print Pavilion are undeniably eye-catching and entertaining, it has to be admitted that few are directly relevant to the aerospace industry. One exception was BeAM (BE Additive Manufacturing) from France which makes additive layer metal parts for aircraft.

Fastest 3D printed drone breaks cover

Jay Shelby Applications Engineer for Stratasys with the 3D printed jet-powered UAV

Stratasys is a company which specialises in 3D printing in aerospace. This year, the company’s stand featured a large black delta-wing UAV which was designed by Aurora Flight Sciences and constructed nearly all from 3D printed parts made by Stratasys. The (as yet unnamed) UAV is also noticeable in that it is powered by a jet engine, making it the fastest ever 3D printed UAV. “We took it out to Utah in September and gave it a test flight when it reached speeds of up to 240km/hr,” said Jay Shelby, Applications Engineer at Stratysys who was responsible for assembling the aircraft from its component 3D printed parts.


The already completed air show site will look much the same …

Visitors to the next Dubai Airshow in 2017 may find it looking rather different. Dominating the entrance to the flightline from the exhibition hall is a huge model showing showing how the currently largely undeveloped area around the air show site will look in years to come. The model shows a future vision of the completed Al Maktoum Airport with its six-runways, together with a new city, industrial areas and hangars.

But its surroundings may look very different next to the airport that is to come.

See you in Dubai 2017! 

12 November 2015