The show featured 20 country pavilions, 1,200+ exhibitors, 371 new exhibiting companies, more than 80 startups along and an aircraft display of over 160 commercial, military, and private jets
Ever since the pandemic, the airshows that used to be the life of the aviation industry were ceased into a coma. However, things are beginning to get back after the successful vaccination drives globally. The Dubai Airshow 2021 held from November 14-18, 2021 came as a sign of positive reinforcement for the industry as members from across the world came together in large numbers. The show featured over 20 country pavilions, 1,200+ exhibitors, 371 new exhibiting companies, more than 80 startups along with a captivating aircraft display of over 160 commercial, military, and private jets including the latest Boeing 777X, Bombardier’s Global 7500 and many more. The event also hosted 387 senior military and civil delegations from over 140 countries along with 50+ hours of thought-leadership content across cargo, sustainability, air traffic management and aerial mobility presented by more than 250 industry speakers. This was the largest aerospace trade event to be held globally since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dubai Airshow gave the industry a much needed boost with sustainable recovery being discussed, next generational aircraft making way, new countries entering the market, billions of dollars of deals being signed and much more. The show is being looked at as a major turning point in recovery and growth of international aerospace industry. The officials noted that Dubai Airshow 2021 was officially the biggest edition of the event since it first began in 1989, with an incredible $78 billion worth of deals announced during the week. The event welcomed more than 1,04,000 attendees and witnessed a 50 per cent increase in trade visitors which included global senior executives from 148 countries. This evidently displayed the confidence that people are regaining towards travel. The airshow was bigger than the pre-pandemic 2019 edition in terms of visitor numbers and deals announced. It was also a significant milestone for the defence and space sectors which saw a range of deals and agreements declared. Almost 150 countries that were represented at this year’s airshow included new additions from the Czech Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Israel, and Slovakia.
The Boeing 777X caught the spotlight at the show as it made its debut. Some of the other firsts included the next generation Sukhoi Fighter Jet making its first international debut and Saab’s GlobalEye that was seen for the first time as an operational asset of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force and Air Defence. Lufthansa Technik AG presented further details of its new wide-body VIP cabin concept EXPLORER. Among helicopters, apart from Airbus’ vegan helicopter, the fourth and final prototype of Leonardo’s AW609 also gathered attention with speed and maneuverability displays.
From aviation sustainability, advanced aerial mobility, space, cargo, air traffic management to the latest tech trends in aviation such as 5G, AI, big data and cybersecurity, the show presented a host of thought-leadership conferences based on current themes and future trends backed by leading experts and practitioners from the aerospace sector. The show featured The Fish Tank Talks where experts from the industry shared their views and insights. Other conferences that were hosted at the show included Advanced Aerial Mobility, Aviation Sustainability, Global Air Traffic Management, Space Forum, Cargo Connect, and Tech Xplore.
Some of the highlights included:
After its successful virtual launch, Aviation Sustainability took place live at the Dubai Airshow, with the aim of expanding towards powering the skies with carbon-neutral flights. The show brought together aircraft manufacturers, airline operators, airports and suppliers to support the UAE’s 2021 vision to accelerate sustainable development while preserving the environment, ultimately achieving the balance between economic and social development. Key themes discussed during this year’s conference included sustainable aviation fuels (SAF); future energy: hydrogen & electric; reducing inefficiencies with data; government incentives; CORSIA; and streamlining aircraft engine design.
With more than 1,04,000 attendees, the event witnessed a 50 per cent increase in trade visitors which included global senior executives from 148 countries
Some of the broader topics covered included discussions around UAE’s commitment to sustainability by creating a more sustainable circular economy. “Although important, aviation sustainability isn’t just about the lifecycle of an aircraft and emissions produced. The production, manufacturing, end-of-life and supporting ecosystem should be reconsidered to create a unified environmentally friendly industry, achieve an even greater impact and put economic growth on a sustainable pathway,” the officials noted.
The disruptive technologies accelerating sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) development were also discussed. It was duly noted that to scale up SAF, new technologies must be developed. Apart from cost, operations, safety and supporting infrastructure also hold back implementation and should be worked upon. The presentation also uncovered the portfolio of solutions available to deliver SAF for aviation decarbonisation and identified technology barriers for accelerating SAF development.The session noted a rise in R&D into SAFs over the last few years, accelerated government and passenger demand, and the need for further government incentives and investment to scale production and reduce costs. This presentation uncovered the current barriers of sustainable success and how to combat future challenges to ensure we meet the 2050 goals. Credible sustainable strategies includes reducing emissions through new fleets, operational fuel efficiency, airport operations, optimal air traffic management, SAF and carbon offsetting.
Apart from SAF, hydrogen was also discussed. Hydrogen has become a buzz word in the energy world and the conference discussed about kickstarting demand for hydrogen energy and exploring the hydrogen value chain. The session also explored the storage, cost, and infrastructure required to welcome hydrogen into the aviation supply chain and how we can fast-track development.
Another highlight at the show was the Space Forum that explored if space services would be the game changer for the aviation sector in 2022. This year the Space Forum discussed about data services revolutionising passenger experiences, how satellite connectivity will change everything from entertainment to maintenance and how low cost access to space is going to enable your business to truly use space tech. Integrated solutions and applications, rapid innovation for mission fulfillment were underlined. The session also explored how adaptability and responsiveness are critical for successful mission delivery. UAE astronauts Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyani were also present at the show. Hazza is UAE’s first astronaut. UAE is advancing its journey into the space sector with consistent initiatives, collaborations and missions being surfaced.
Space sector’s utilisation for inflight entertainment was also explored considering the rising demand for aero connectivity in broad terms. Inmarsat’s 2018 survey suggests that about 67 per cent of the passengers are likely to rebook with an airline if inflight Wi-Fi were available. The use of satellite services for governments’ networking needs was also talked about, alongside new space launches. Space launch services are expected to record strong growth in 2021, with the market forecast to grow more than 15.7 per cent year over year.
ADVANCED AERIAL MOBILITY
Drones, UAVs and eVTOLs are gearing up to take a larger portion of the industry. Drone deliveries to air taxis, the way cargo and people will be transported is changing with these disruptive technologies. Transport infrastructure in terms of cost, personal time, space consumption and carbon emissions would be pivotal with eVTOLs. Following the global trend, Dubai seeks to ensure a quarter of all journeys in the emirate are taken on autonomous transport by 2030, the show officials highlighted. Drone systems represent one of the most promising emerging technologies in the civil aviation and transport sector, the discussion identified how companies can capitalise on drone technology, calculate ROI and accelerate investment in air-mobility infrastructure to support drone development. Germany air-taxi startup Lilium, Florida based LuftCar, Israeli AIR, Airbus and Boeing were among the next-gen aircraft companies present at the show.
From aviation sustainability, advanced aerial mobility, space, cargo, air traffic management to the latest tech trends in aviation such as 5G, AI, big data and cybersecurity, the show discussed it all
The disruption challenges faced during the pandemic has increased opportunities within the UAV sector. Worldwide lockdowns accelerated ecommerce activity, coupled with vaccine drives that are pushing capacity boundaries with traditional cargo and last mile delivery suppliers. This session extensively discussed how delivery drones can alleviate some of the ecommerce boom pressures and fast track vaccine distribution. Demand for last-mile logistics is voracious with deliveries expected to double by 2030. Commercial and cargo drones cannot truly take off without the physical infrastructure to support operations such as landing pads, charging points, and drone ports. The world’s only city-wide drone network in Abu Dhabi was also showcased at the show to explore the initiative’s value proposition for healthcare and how lightweight, emission-free drones will help pioneer sustainable Cities of the Future.
UAE AVIATION AHEAD
Speaking about the UAE aviation industry and the outlook for Dubai airports, Sheikh Ahmed said Dubai International Airport (DXB) is set to return to full operational capacity by next week, with the reopening of Concourse A, in a development that will provide a positive impetus to the aviation sector in the country. He also expressed confidence that both Emirates and DXB will return to pre-COVID levels of activity in the next 12 months. Efforts being made to coordinate with different countries and aviation authorities across the world will make this possible, he noted. “Dubai authorities are working to restore the high passenger numbers before the pandemic, which saw DXB handling 90 million international passengers annually, making it one of the world’s busiest international airports, he added.
Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director & Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Middle East also added that the aviation sector has experienced unprecedented disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are seeing a better than expected recovery, particularly in the Middle East. The recovery has been accelerated by accelerated technology adoption within the aviation sector. Contactless technology and AI-enabled video surveillance for enforcing social distancing protocols have effectively boosted confidence for travellers to return to the skies. Cloud technology has also enabled elasticity and resilience in COVID-enforced remote working environments and tight labor conditions. Another major trend is green airports and net-zero targets for the industry as sustainability takes hold.
Industry players have been quick to offer solutions to cater to rising demand and the show’s occurrence at such a time is a high booster to drive the aerospace industry collectively towards a faster recovery.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) took over the skies of Dubai during the inaugural day at the DWC or Dubai World Central Airport. IAF’s Suryakiran Aerobatic team and light combat aircraft Tejas displayed their flying skills on the opening day. This was the first time in Dubai that the Surya Kirans and the Tejas flaunted their maneuvers. The Sarang Helicopter display team, consisting of the five Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALHs) also participated in the show.
The IAF aircraft were joined by planes from the aerobatics teams of Saudi Arabia (Hawks), Russia (Knights) and the United Arab Emirates (Al Fursan), among others that included the Airbus 350, the US Air Force’s F-16, the Mirage 2000 of the UAE Air Force and ended with the Russian Knights taking to the skies.
India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also participated, showcasing Advanced Defence Systems, Missiles, Radars, LCA-Tejas, AEW&C, Bridging Systems and more.
According to the Defence Ministry, five Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALHs) of the Sarang team, 10 BAE Hawk 132 aircraft of the Surya Kiran team and three LCA Tejas aircraft participated in the Dubai Airshow.
India’s most recent airline Akasa Air placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX jets valued at nearly $9 billion at list prices during the Dubai Airshow. This was followed by the Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet and Boeing agreeing to settle outstanding claims related to the grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft.
IAF CONTINGENT AT THE SHOW
The India Air Force (IAF) contingent, consisting of Sarang, Suryakiran and Tejas, gave a scintillating performance here. The IAF was invited by the Government of UAE to participate with the Sarang and Suryakiran Aerobatic Teams. These teams performed along with some of the best aerobatics and display teams in the world, including the Saudi Hawks, Russian Knights and the UAE’s Al Fursan. In addition, the IAF’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas was a part of the aerobatics and static displays during the show.
The induction of five Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Dhruvs of the Sarang Team, 10 BAE Hawk 132s of the Suryakiran Team and the three LCA Tejas was completed by 09th November 21. The induction was supported by the IAF’s C-17 Globemaster IIs and C-130J Super Hercules. On arrival, the contingent received a warm welcome by Staff Maj Gen Staff Pilot Ishaq Saleh Mohammed al-Balushi of the UAE Armed Forces and other officers of the UAE Air Force.
While the Sarang Team has previously participated in the Al Ain Grand Prix in UAE in 2005, the Dubai Air Show was the first occasion for the Suryakirans and the Tejas to show off their swashbuckling aerial manoeuvres here.
The Sarang Helicopter Display Team, which flies the Indian manufactured Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, derives its name from the Sanskrit name for peacock, the national bird of India. Being the only four helicopter military display team in the world, Sarang has previously performed its daring manoeuvres at international venues like Singapore, UAE, Germany, UK, Bahrain, Sri Lanka and Russia. The team was led by Wing Commander Girish Komar.
The Suryakiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) operated the Hawk 132 aircraft and performs a nine aircraft aerobatics display. It was previously equipped with the Indian made Kiran Mk II aircraft and has performed internationally at Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Lao and China. The team was led by Group Captain Anoop Singh.
The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas of the IAF carried out manoeuvres to enthrall the crowd. The Tejas team was led by Group Captain Manish Tolani.
The contingent was visited by Air Marshal A.P. Singh, Senior Air Staff officer of the Shillong based Eastern Air Command. On arrival, the contingent commander briefed him on the contingent and introduced him to the officers and airmen of the participating teams. The Air Marshal interacted with them and wished them well for the air show. He also interacted with officers and personnel of the UAE Armed Forces working with the IAF contingent for the duration of the air show.
PERFORMANCE BY THE IAF CONTINGENT
The Dubai Air Show kicked off in style on November 14 at the Al Maktoum airport in UAE. The IAF’s Sarang Helicopter Display Team and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas showcased their superior flying skills and left an indelible impression of the capabilities of the IAF and the rapid strides of the Indian aviation industry.
November 17, 2021, the penultimate day of the Dubai Air Show 2021 commenced with a fascinating combined flypast by the IAF’s Suryakiran Aerobatic Team and UAE’s Al Fursan Display Team. Nine Hawk 132 of the Suryakiran team flew in sync with seven Aermacchi MB-339 of Al Fursan over important landmarks of Dubai like Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab, in a display which signifies the deep camaraderie and bonhomie between the two Air Forces.
The Suryakirans also participated in a late afternoon aerobatics display which was highly appreciated by the crowd.
The ever increasing popularity of the Tejas was reinforced by the superb demonstration flight flown by the fighter in the afternoon. The aircraft manoeuvred effortlessly, showing off its agility and versatility; a testament to the rapid strides that the platform has achieved in recent times.