Key local issues feature on air show agenda

Boeing and Airbus are likely to be on everyone’s lips at November's Dubai 2001 air show, but a number of local aviation issues will also loom large.

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By  David Ingham Published  July 26, 2001

Boeing and Airbus battle|~||~||~|It doesn’t take place until November 4, but Dubai’s bi-annual air-show is already looming large, and expect it to once again closely reflect the issues facing the air industry. Clive Richardson, chief executive at Fairs and Exhibitions, the show organiser, expects next generation airliners, airport redevelopment, corporate and VIP aircraft, and IT to be major items on the Dubai 2001 agenda. “The show here has very much developed as THE show for the wider Middle East region and it’s rapidly becoming an international platform,” says Richardson.

Despite ongoing consolidation in the aerospace business, Richardson still expects to attract over 500 exhibitors to the trade-only show, and hopes to welcome at least 25,000 visitors. Those figures are due in large part, he says, to the growing presence of Dubai and Emirates Airlines on a world stage.

One thing that visitors may notice is the shifting balance of the show, which is expected to tilt strongly in favour of the commercial this year away from the military. In the world of commercial airlines, there’s no bigger battle right now than the one between Boeing and Airbus to become the dominant supplier of next generation airlines.

Airbus is developing a new airliner called the A380 that can carry up to 800 people on long haul routes. Boeing’s strategy is to keep its venerable 747X as its bulk long haul airliner, whilst developing a faster, 100-300 seater for the high end of the market.

“I think there’s no question that the [Airbus] A380 and the new Boeing supersonic aircraft will be top of the discussion list at the show this year,” says Richardson. “It’s a big battleground and Emirates is an important customer of both.” Emirates Airlines is amongst the first customers to have ordered the A380, which will be ready later in this decade.

Again on the aircraft side and on a more regional level, Richardson said he expects to see plenty of activity in the area of VIP and corporate aircraft. One idea that is being pushed into the region is fractional ownership, whereby an individual or company can take a stake in a shared plane and use it according to how large their stake is.

It’s an idea that’s new to the Middle East and Richardson is waiting to see how it succeeds here. The show will undoubtedly provide some idea. “I think there is still a question mark over whether that kind of model will work in this part of the world,” he says.
||**||Regional issues and IT|~||~||~|
Just as demand for private aircraft is growing in the Middle East, so too is the amount of regional travel. As this intra-regional travel increases, there’s a growing need for smaller planes that can seat around 100 passengers on short haul routes.

Manufacturers of these planes, such as Bombardier, are therefore expected to up their presence significantly compared to the last show in 1999. “They realise there is a great opportunity in the region now in the selling of smaller aircraft, 120 seats and below, for shorter regional routes,” says Richardson. “They’ll be competing for business just like Boeing and Airbus.”

Along with all of these issues, expect information technology to be much higher on the Dubai 2001 agenda than at previous shows. It’s becoming such a big issue that IT in the airline industry is going to be the focus of a one day event on November 3.

More details will be revealed closer to the date, but the event will be organised by ITP, the publisher of Arabian Business.com. His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Group, is the event’s patron. “There’s no question that, compared to the last show, we’ll see a lot more technology at the show,” says Richardson.

Two very recent announcements reflect the growing part that IT is playing in the industry. Last month, Dubai Civil Aviation announced that it’s creating a portal for the region’s airline industry in partnership with Malaysia’s airportXchange.

The new operation will carry requests for tender for Dubai’s airport expansion project. Over time, the two parties envision it growing into a resource that will be used by the Middle East’s entire aviation industry.

Last month also saw the arrival of Clipper One Technologies, which claims to be the first aviation-focused IT specialist to enter the Middle East. The company says it expects to launch a ‘world first’ product at Dubai 2001.

The product has been described as a ‘critical management tool’ and is the culmination of work between Clipper One Technologies; its German partner, m2p; and a major European airline. From what’s been said, the mystery product sounds like an ERP package for the airline industry. A slimline, modular version of the product is being developed that should be more suited for smaller regional airlines.

Information technology is also allowing Dubai 2001 to make its impact well beyond the show halls. If visitors get as far as venturing online, they’ll be able to visit a virtual version of the exhibition.

The virtual Dubai 2001 will be a 3D rendering of the show that will go online on October 28th, at a Web address that’s yet to be announced, and will remain online for three months. Visitors to the site will be able to navigate around the 3D halls and click on the objects inside the stands to find out more. So even if you can’t make it to what promises to be another successful exhibition, you should still be able to enjoy it.||**||

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