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Dynamic Deals Define Dubai Airshow

The total value of contracts awarded for commercial aircrafts and defence purposes during the Airshow reached Dh266 billion in the first three days

Issue: 11-2021By Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By DubaiAirshow / Twitter, Airbus
Dubai Airshow is a major draw for aerospace majors from across the globe. This year also, UAE’s Ministry of Defence signed contracts worth billions of dollars with suppliers during the Dubai Airshow.

Deals have always been something to look forward to in any airshow and Dubai Airshow 2021 was no different, rather it had more. The total value of contracts awarded for commercial aircrafts and defence purposes jumped by Dh63 billion on the third day itself of the Airshow, reaching Dh266 billion in the first three days. The Airshow further established the importance of international cooperation as critical for the global aviation sector especially to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Some of the notable deals which took place during the event included:

  • The UAE’s Ministry of Defence signed AED 22.5 billion worth of contracts with European, American and Asian contractors and suppliers at the Airshow. The UAE Air Force and Air Defence (Afad) on the first day awarded a contract worth Dh11 billion to Abu Dhabi-based advanced technology firm Edge Group’s subsidiary GAL for the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), and specialised support services for the UAE Airforce and Air Defence.
  • Tawazun Economic Council (Tawazun) and Airbus signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which the latter will establish a wholly-owned facility in Abu Dhabi. The formation of the subsidiary is part of Tawazun’s efforts to attract and promote long-term partnerships with major companies in the defence, aviation and aerospace sector. Tawazun also signed a Euro 216.9 million deal with Aeroter to purchase 100 VRT500 helicopters.
  • Dubai Airshow and the UAE Space Agency signed a MoU on the second day of the event. The two parties will collaborate to further position Dubai Airshow as a key platform for companies and investors in the space sector. The partnership will support organisations looking to establish a presence at future editions of the event and will enable space companies to benefit from the participation, engagements, networking and agreements created at Dubai Airshow. The agreement will deliver an increased focus on the space industry for future editions of the event highlighting the continued growth and development of the international space sector. His Highness Sheikh Ahmed commented.
  • Honeywell appointed Wahaj, a Saudi Arabia-based company, as a strategic supplier for manufacturing commercial aerospace parts. Wahaj will be the first company from the Middle East to manufacture and export a large variety of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) aviation parts to Honeywell Aerospace sites in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Wahaj is one of the few AS9100-certified companies in Saudi Arabia involved in the manufacturing of high-precision, high-complexity machined components, kits, and subassemblies, for the aerospace and defence industries. As part of the seven-year agreement, Wahaj will supply OEM parts to Honeywell that go into products such as wheels and brakes, power systems, engines, air and thermal systems, and auxiliary power units (APUs) for several major platforms including the Airbus 350, 330 and 320NEO; Boeing 737MAX and 777; Dassault Falcon 8X/M1000 and 7X; and McDonnell-Douglas 11.
  • Overland Airways of Lagos, Nigeria, has placed orders for three new E175 E-Jets, plus three purchase right aircraft. The transaction was announced at the Dubai Airshow and is worth $299.4 million, at list price with all options exercised. Deliveries are planned to begin in 2023. The new aircraft, the airline’s first jets, will be deployed to increase scheduled flights on domestic routes and to expand its regional network. Each E175 is configured with 88 seats in Premium Class cabin configuration.

The UAE’s Ministry of Defence signed AED 22.5 billion worth of contracts with European, American and Asian contractors and suppliers at the Airshow

Apart from these the key players like Boeing, Airbus, Etihad and Emirates among other had a significant share of dealings.


Airbus gathered extensive attention both in the display as well as the deals’ segment.

In the customers’ display, Emirates Airline presented its A380 and Etihad Airways showcased the A350-1000. Airbus Helicopters displayed the Kuwait Air Force aircraft H225M, along with an ACH175 as well as a mock-up of the H145M, and a scale model of the H175M. Meanwhile, Airbus Defence and Space presented a C295 and an A400M airlifter on the static display. The daily flying display included Airbus’ own A350-900. Showgoers will also have the opportunity to see the ACH145 in flight as it performs customer demos at the South terminal.

Airbus Corporate Helicopters’ (ACH) also designed and presented a fully vegan helicopter during the show, the ACH145. Its cabin is fitted with ACH’s clean and modern ACH Line interior configuration in a grey theme but the leather elements essential to its luxury feel are replaced with Ultraleather which captures the visual and tactile leather experience with comparable durability. Items that had to be specially designed and fabricated in the replacement material include the six passenger seats, central storage cabinet, rear partition and cockpit controls cuffs.

(Left & Right) Business Aircraft also featured prominently at the event

Airbus’ Flight Operations subsidiary NAVBLUE launched Mission+, the first Electronic Flight Assistant (EFA) that provides pilots with all the data and information that they need to perform their mission, via one modular digital solution. This mission-centric approach integrates flight management data and documentation, cockpit check-list, navigation charts and airport maps, real time weather conditions, aircraft performance data - usually only available to pilots via multiple sources. Accessible through an interactive display, Mission+ is the first EFA on the market to gather all information sources together with one single point of entry. For pilots this means an integrated interface that allows quick, easy and seamless navigation.

  • Wizz Air (Hungary), Frontier (United States), Volaris (Mexico) and JetSMART (Chile, Argentina), Indigo Partners portfolio airlines, have announced an order for 255 additional A321neo Family aircraft under a joint Indigo Partners agreement. The firm order was signed at the Dubai Airshow. This order brings the total number of aircraft ordered by the Indigo Partners’ airlines to 1,145 A320 Family aircraft. The aircraft ordered today are a mix of A321neos and A321XLRs, which will be delivered to the individual airlines as follows:
    Wizz Air      : 102 aircraft (75 A321neo + 27 A321XLR)
    Frontier       : 91 aircraft (A321neo)
    Volaris        : 39 aircraft (A321neo)
    JetSMART : 23 aircraft (21 A321neo + 2 A321XLR))
    In addition to this order, Volaris and JetSMART will up convert 38 A320neo to A321neo from their existing aircraft backlogs.
  • Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) and Alpha Star Aviation signed a Letter of Agreement at Dubai airshow for the new and unique In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) technology - “The ACJ Smart LiFi Monitor” in presence of Abdulnaser Al Kheraif CEO, and Ibrahim Al Yaheyan VP-Tech, Alpha Star Aviation and Benoit Defforge, ACJ President.
  • AkwaIbom state government owned airline in Nigeria, Ibom Air has signed a firm order for ten A220s at the Dubai Airshow. The signing was done by Mfon Udom, the chief Executive Officer of Ibom Air, and Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International in the presence of the AkwaIbom state Governor, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
  • Two new airline customers in Africa selected Airbus’ Flight Hour Services (FHS) to support their respective Airbus fleets: Air Tanzania for its A220s and Uganda Airlines for its A330neos.
  • Air Lease Corporation (ALC) has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) covering all Airbus Families, highlighting the power of the company’s full product range. The Indonesia Ministry of Defence placed an order for two Airbus A400M aircraft in multirole tanker and transport configuration.
  • The United Arab Emirates Air Force & Air Defence formally ordered two additional Airbus A330 Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft increasing the country’s MRTT fleet up to five aircraft.
  • Airbus also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Jazeera Airways, the Kuwait-based carrier, for 20 A320neos and eight A321neos.
  • Airbus’ CityAirbus NextGen eVTOL aircraft is expected to gain EASA certification in 2025, Balkiz Sarihan, Airbus head of urban air mobility strategy execution and partnerships announced during a briefing at the Dubai Airshow.


Boeing’s 777X made its international debut at the Dubai Airshow. Captivating much of the attentions during the first flying day of the airshow, a Boeing 777-9 flight-test airplane took to the skies. While this remained as a major highlight of the show, there was much more that happened for the aerospace manufacturer. Boeing showcased its market-leading portfolio of commercial, defence and services products at the 2021 Dubai Airshow, along with the company’s growing autonomous capabilities such as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

  • In a headline making occurrence, Boeing and Akasa Air, a brand of SNV Aviation, announced the new Indian carrier has ordered seventy-two 737 MAX airplanes to build its fleet. Valued at nearly $9 billion at list prices, the order is a key endorsement of the 737 family’s capability to serve the rapidly growing Indian market.
  • The 737 MAX family promises to deliver superior efficiency, flexibility and reliability while reducing fuel use and carbon emissions by at least 14 per cent compared to airplanes it replaces. India’s growing economy and expanding middle class is expected to fuel strong demand for commercial flights, driving the need for more than 2,200 new airplanes in South Asia valued at nearly $320 billion over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s 2021 Commercial Market Outlook forecast.
  • Boeing and Sky One FZE announced a sales agreement for three 777-300 airplanes at the Dubai Airshow. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Sky One FZE is a privately held aircraft leasing company based in the United Arab Emirates. Sky One FZE has a diverse business portfolio, namely dry and wet leasing, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul services, pilot training, operations, Air Operator’s Certificate management as well as spares and logistics. The firm has a strong focus on growing airlines in Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States and India.
  • Air Tanzania announced order for Boeing freighter and passenger jets with an order for 787 Dreamliner, 767 Freighter and two 737 MAX airplanes.
  • SAUDIA selected Boeing for a suite of services to improve their 787 Dreamliner and 777 fleets’ operational efficiency through digital analytics, and to modify their 777 cabin interiors.
  • Emirates announced an order for two 777 Freighters, expanding the future capability of one of the world’s largest cargo airlines at a time of significant global demand for air freight. The freighters will be operated by Emirates Sky-Cargo, which currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of 10 777 Freighters and also carries cargo on Emirates’ 134 777 passenger airplanes.
  • DHL Express placed its largest Boeing converted freighter order to date. The logistics company placed a firm order for nine more 767-300 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCF). Representing their largest single 767-300BCF order to date, the additional freighters will help expand DHL’s long-haul intercontinental fleet in response to increased global demand for cargo capacity. DHL has taken delivery of seven of a batch of eight 767-300BCF, that have been leased to DHL partner airlines in the Middle East and Latin America to support its expanding regional networks. The manufacturer boasts 767-300BCF to be the world’s most efficient medium widebody converted freighter and can carry up to 51.6 tonnes (1,13,900 pounds) up to 6,190 kilometers (3,345 nautical miles). 767 Freighters provide the lowest operating costs per trip with excellent payload and range capability. The 767-300BCF has more than 100 orders and commitments to date.
  • Keeping up the global demand for freighters that continues to soar, Boeing announced plans to add three conversion lines for the market-leading 737-800BCF across North America and Europe. The company also signed a firm order with Icelease for eleven of the freighters as the launch customer for one of the new conversion lines. In 2022, the company plans to open one conversion line at Boeing’s London Gatwick Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) facility, its state-of-the-art hangar in the United Kingdom; and two conversion lines in 2023 at KF Aerospace MRO in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.


Emirates has concluded the 2021 edition of the Dubai Airshow on a positive note, culminating a week of investment announcements and partnerships. This year, Emirates’ presence at the show included participation in the opening flypast; aircraft static displays; an exhibition stand showcasing its latest cabin products, Emirates Flight Training Academy and the Emirates Aviation University; and offering its renowned hospitality for partners and invited guests in the Emirates Chalet.

(Left) Five aerobatic teams participated in the aerobatic displays this year; (Right) The Russian Knights aerobatic team took part in the flight programme

Emirates’ latest four-class configured A380 remained a popular draw, featuring the airline’s recently introduced Premium Economy Class cabin. The Cirrus SR22 and Embraer Phenom 100 jets utilised for training flights by the Emirates Flight Training Academy were also on display to visitors.

Key themes discussed during this year’s aviation sustainability conference included SAF; future energy: hydrogen & electric; reducing inefficiencies with data; government incentives, etc.

The flypast was a large and colourful start to the Dubai Airshow flying display programme, and celebrated the UAE’s advancements and leadership in civil aviation and aerospace. The Emirates B777-300ER display aircraft was emblazoned with the bespoke ‘United Arab Emirates 50’ livery, embodying the Golden jubilee of Emirates’ home and hub, the UAE. The Emirates A380 featured the Expo 2020 Dubai livery with the special ‘Dubai Expo’ and ‘Be Part of the Magic’ messages running across both sides of the fuselage.

  • The airline announced a significant investment to retrofit 105 of its Boeing 777 and A380 aircraft with its Premium Economy product, in addition to other cabin enhancements. The entire 18-month retrofit programme, starting in 2022, will take place in Dubai and reinforces the UAE’s status as a centre of aviation excellence.
  • At the end of the retrofit programme, Emirates will have a total of 111 Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft offering Premium Economy seats, including the six A380s that would have been delivered to the airline with four cabin classes by December 2021.
  • On the Emirates Boeing 777, five rows of Economy class seats located just behind Business Class will be removed to install 24 Premium Economy seats laid out in 2-4-2 configuration. On the Emirates A380, 56 Premium Economy seats will installed at the front of the main deck also in 2-4-2 configuration.
  • Emirates also signed an agreement with Panasonic to deliver a suite of in-flight entertainment (IFE) solutions for its Premium Economy retrofit programme.
  • Emirates and Gulf Air signed a MoU to develop a deeper commercial cooperation between both carriers as they look to leverage each other’s networks.
  • To support its long-term cargo capabilities and help boost global supply chain connectivity, Emirates SkyCargo announced that it will introduce two new Boeing 777Fs into its fleet in 2022, and signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the conversion of four Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into full freighters, starting in early 2023.
  • Building on Dubai’s global logistics hub status and emergence as a centre for e-commerce, Emirates SkyCargo also signed a milestone agreement with Emirates Post, to develop an e-commerce end-to-end global logistics platform, with a key focus on serving markets in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia. The first if its kind, this partnership between an airline cargo carrier and a national postal operator combines the global network and capacity strengths of Emirates Sky-Cargo with the last-mile delivery expertise of Emirates Post.
  • Supporting its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, Emirates signed an agreement with GE Aviation committing to develop a programme that will see an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER powered by GE90 engines conduct a test flight using 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) by the end of 2022. The milestone collaboration is expected to demonstrate how widebody commercial aircraft using jet fuel made from alternative sources can lower lifecycle CO2 emissions.


Etihad Airways has signed multiple partnership and collaboration agreements with the aviation industry’s top manufactures, suppliers and stakeholders at the 2021 Dubai Airshow, bringing aviation’s leading organisations together under its strategic sustainability programme to drive decarbonisation creating the industry’s most comprehensive multi-organisational partnership to reduce CO2 emissions globally. Etihad also managed to expand strategic sustainability programme uniting industry leaders in the most comprehensive, cross-organisational aviation sustainability initiative ever undertaken, the airline stated.

(Left) Airbus signed a major deal for 255 aircraft with Indigo Partners; (Right) Boeing 777x made its international debut at the show

The airline’s sustainability programme, which to date has been focused on the airline’s fleet of GEnX powered Boeing 787’s under the Greenliner Programme, will now be complimented by a similar programme focussed on maximising the opportunities presented by the inclusion of the Rolls Royce XWB powered Airbus A350 fleet. The first of Etihad’s A350’s, launched at the Dubai Airshow as the “Sustainability50”, carries a unique “UAE50” livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and the airline’s commitment to the 2050 target of net-zero carbon emissions.

Etihad’s work with partners including Boeing, GE, Airbus and Rolls Royce supports the organisation’s strategic objectives to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in emissions intensity in its passenger fleet by 2025, cut 2019 net emissions by 50 per cent by 2035, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Dubai Airshow and the UAE Space Agency signed a MoU to collaborate to further position Dubai Airshow as a key platform for companies and investors in the space sector

The introduction of the Rolls-Royce XWB engine powering the A350 fleet is yet another credential in Etihad’s drive for sustainable operations, given the renowned fuel efficiency of this modern engine. Etihad’s agreement with Rolls-Royce is built around maximising the enormous potential of this engine, and beyond, targeting the application of electrification technologies and hybrid systems, together with the use of electric motors for commuter aircraft and the fast-emerging urban air mobility (UAMs) sector.

Etihad’s partnership with Airbus established a formal framework to collaborate for sustainability across a number of core areas on Etihad’s A350 fleet, in line with the organisations’ respective sustainability programmes to improve aviation’s environmental performance. Key areas for collaboration include the promotion and commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel, waste and weight management, and the development of data driven analysis.

(Left) Emirates announced a major retrofit programme. The entire 18-month programme will take place in Dubai; (Right) Etihad signed multiple partnerships and collaborations at the show

The multitude of partnerships which have made up the Etihad Greenliner Programme to date demonstrate the airline’s agile and comprehensive approach to sustainability, proven by the inclusion of Airbus A350 and Rolls-Royce and subsequent expansion to Sustainability50; an evolution certain to further signify the power of the Etihad Greenliner call to arms, and Etihad Airways commitment ‘For the World’. At the Dubai Airshow in 2021 Etihad signed many other sustainability-focused agreements:

  • Etihad and Lufthansa Technik AG signed a MoU regarding a comprehensive partnership on the exploration of digital solutions that is set to further optimise the airline’s technical fleet and operations management. The field of cooperation will encompass several products from Lufthansa Technik’s industry-leading AVIATAR digital operations suite. Focusing on digital and sustainable tech-ops, it covers the use of Fuel Analytics, Condition Monitoring and automated Line Maintenance Planning in the beginning. To further boost its fuel efficiency and hence reach its sustainability goals, Etihad will be one of the first airlines to take advantage of AVIATAR’s innovative Fuel Analytics app.
  • SATAVIA and Etihad Airways signed a MoU to form a partnership focussing on reducing the airline’s non-CO2 footprint via advanced flight planning optimisation. The collaboration will help to eliminate the creation of aircraftgenerated clouds that account for up to 60 per cent of aviation’s total climate impact. In a world-first trial targeting contrail formation, the two companies collaborated on the airline’s EY20 Sustainable flight on the 23rd October 2021. SATAVIA’s DECISIONX capability enables airlines to prevent condensation trails (contrails), which cause a net climate warming effect almost double that of direct engine emissions. By exploring the potential for integrating SATAVIA’s DECISIONX flight plan contrail optimisation into the airline’s flight planning systems, Etihad hopes to implement navigational contrail prevention in day-to-day flight operations.
  • Etihad and Tadweer (Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center) signed a Joint Project Development Agreement (JOP) on waste to fuel initiatives, as part of the nation’s targets to divert 75 per cent of waste from landfills by 2025 and the sectors compliance with CORSIA, toward decarbonisation through utilisation of Sustainable Aviation Fuels. The project seeks to explore the processing of commercial, industrial, and municipal solid waste to fuel, fulfilling the airline’s stance on the development, production and integration of a valuable biofuel supply chain in the region.
  • Etihad Airways and The Storey Group signed a MoU. Following the operation of the Etihad Sustainable Flight, the airline adopted a mangrove for each passenger on board the flight from Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Mangrove Park to support the development of mangrove conversation projects in the nation. Collaboration with Jubail Mangrove Park, The Storey Group and Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi is especially significant, in ensuring the preservation and maintenance of natural habitats, the mangroves not only reduce pollution from water and the atmosphere, but increase their potential to avoid release of CO2 into the atmosphere with mangroves currently holding up to 6.4 billion tonnes of CO2 globally.

Emirates SkyCargo signed a milestone agreement with Emirates Post, to develop an e-commerce end-to-end global logistics platform, with a key focus on serving markets in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia

Etihad Engineering, one of the world’s leading aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services provider based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, showcased its comprehensive range of aircraft maintenance and engineering solutions. It also managed to get some significant deals in its pocket. The company has successfully completed complex maintenance projects over the years for airlines from across the world.

  • Etihad Engineering, was awarded a heavy maintenance contract by Virgin Australia for its Boeing 737 fleet. The scope of the contract covers heavy maintenance and modifications on more than 30 nose to tail aircraft for the largest airline by fleet size under the Virgin brand.