Dubai Airshow opens to healing aviation industry amid COVID-19

The biennial Dubai air show opened on Sunday to a world still reeling from the pandemic and an aviation industry hard hit by the coronavirus, but on the mend.

Boeing and Airbus have traditionally been the stars of the airshow, arguing over multi-billion dollar purchases from Gulf-based airlines and working out final details minutes before back-to-back press conferences. This year, however, the five-day exhibit is expected to be more low-key than in the past due to the moderate state of flights and travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the contrary, the first day of the air show drew attention to the defense and military equipment of countries like Russia and Israel.

Airbus’ successful business deal was the sale of 255 new planes to the low-cost carriers of Indigo Partners. The agreement provides for the purchase of 102 new planes by Wizz Air of Hungary, 91 by Frontier in the United States, 39 by the Mexican Volaris and 23 by the South American JetSmart. The package includes a mix of A321neo and A321XLR aircraft. At Airbus list prices before the pandemic, the order would total more than $ 30 billion. The company declined to provide details on the sale price.

Airbus has also secured an order for two additional A330 mid-air refueling planes with the United Arab Emirates Air Force, bringing the country’s Airbus multirole transport fleet to five.

The star on the tarmac outside the exhibition hall was the Russian Checkmate fighter plane, which was shown to media in a custom-built hangar with a display of laser lights bouncing off a mirrored ceiling. The plane, with a base price of $ 35 million, is a cheaper competitor to the US F-35, which the UAE has been trying to acquire since it officially recognized Israel last year in a deal negotiated by the Trump administration. This sale slowed down under President Biden.

In a dramatic promotional video, the Checkmate soared into a scorched orange sky, detonating targets in the desert as music blared in the background and a thunderous voiceover reverberated through the characteristics of the aircraft .

“The idea was born as we used all the experience that Russia gained during its operations in Syria and many features of the aircraft came from realistic situations that we experienced,” said the director. General of United Aircraft Corp. Yuri Slyusar through a translator during the unveiling. . In the devastating civil war in Syria, Russian warplanes supported the forces of President Bashar Assad.

United Aircraft is a holding company of state-owned Rostec, Checkmate’s parent company. Production of the aircraft is expected to start in 2025.

In addition, more than 100 US companies exhibit at the airshow, including defense giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

“We are committed to deepening and strengthening this vital strategic relationship,” said Sean Murphy, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy. At the opening of the American pavilion, he also thanked the United Arab Emirates for their assistance in the United States-led evacuations out of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro walked the tarmac in front of the booth of Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, inspecting the interior of the company’s massive C-390 Millennium transport plane, smiling and waving to crowds of reporters.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly has listed the diversity of helicopters and maritime patrol planes at the Airbus pavilion, surrounded by French airmen in uniform.

Boeing has brought its new 777-9 passenger jet from Seattle on the longest flight to date for the aircraft as it undergoes continuous testing and awaits regulatory approval. Boeing says it will be the world’s largest and most efficient jet. The Middle East’s largest carrier, Emirates, has ordered 126 of this 777X, but the Dubai airline has expressed frustration at the delivery delays, which are not expected until the end of 2023.

Airbus presented reporters with a version of the A320neo, which had been converted to a luxury business jet with a king-size bed, walk-in shower and a spacious seating area with sofas and tables bass. The Chinese state defense company CATIC presented a range of anti-aircraft missiles, munitions and fighter jets. An Emirati airman inspecting a US-made CH-47 Chinook noted that the transport helicopter had supported Emirati forces on recent missions in Yemen and Afghanistan.

Israeli companies presented their equipment for the first time at the airshow after Israel’s diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates normalized last year. State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries presented unmanned and unmanned naval and aerial drones.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems from Israel showcased its “drone dome” which detects and destroys drones with lasers. Emirati defense officials were seen questioning the scope and weight of the Israeli flag’s anti-drone system. A total of six Israeli companies are participating in the air show.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz described the UAE-Israel partnership as a “strategic asset”, saying in a statement that the Defense Ministry’s participation “reflects the deepening of relations” between the two nations. The two countries share deep concerns over Iran, which is set to resume negotiations over its tattered nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

The air show takes place near Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, a second and smaller international hub of Dubai’s main airport, which is the world’s busiest for international travel.

With the deployment of vaccines to many countries around the world, the airline industry as a whole is recovering from the net loss of around $ 138 billion last year.

Yet the industry continues to suffer losses this year and next. The International Air Transport Association. projects net losses for airlines of $ 52 billion this year and $ 11.6 billion in 2022.

Although commercial travel remains uncertain amid the pandemic, freight volumes are already above pre-pandemic levels. Some airlines have ripped off seats on their passenger flights to the ground and turned their planes into cargo planes.

Faced with this growing demand, Boeing has announced plans to add three conversion lines – one in the UK and two in Canada – to convert commercial aircraft into freight carriers. Boeing has also signed an order with icelease for 11 of its 737 freighters.

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