Dubai Air Show 2023 Saw Surge in Demand for Wide Body Aircraft, IAF’s Indigenous Marvels Impressed

Defence Industry

New Delhi: The five-day 18th edition of the eagerly awaited Dubai Air Show 2023 which took off on November 13 at Dubai World Central (DWC) under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai saw the leading aircraft manufacturers like Boeing, Airbus and Rolls Royce vying for orders from the leading customers in the aviation industry.

The air show with the theme ‘The Future of the Aerospace Industry,’ sought to reshape the trajectory of the aerospace, space and defence sectors, featuring participation from over 1,400 exhibitors representing 95 countries. The show also saw participation of Indian companies like defence public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and a large contingent of Indian Air Force (IAF) participate in an air show, broke records as the largest edition to date, and the aim of the show was to serve as a global meeting ground for industry pioneers and innovators, with more than 300 international speakers exploring the latest trends and opportunities in aviation, space, and defence.

The show saw tremendous demand for wide body aircraft with several airlines ordering models from Airbus and Boeing, including the A350-900, Boeing 777X, and 787.  Emirates was a key player, ordering 90 Boeing 777X aircraft and adjusting its Boeing 787 order, while flydubai also ordered 30 787-9s.  According to reports, the event saw fewer orders for narrow body aircraft, with Boeing beating Airbus in terms of sales.

Throughout the five days, several airlines and lessors announced deals with manufacturers, which included orders booked by Airbus, Boeing, and ATR. However,  the orders’ peaked in the first few days, with the latter days of the trade show entering into a quieter lull.

One of the most prominent trends of the event was that twin-aisle aircraft dominated the show and saw  Emirates, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Royal Jordanian, and Royal Air Maroc place orders for  wide body aircraft, including the Airbus A350-900, Boeing 777X, and 787s. Some airlines, such as Emirates, EgyptAir, and Ethiopian Airlines, ordered aircraft from both duopoly members – Airbus and Boeing – yet none went with the largest A350 variant, the A350-1000.

EgyptAir only ordered the Airbus A350-900, with the Egyptian airline entering into an agreement with Air Lease Corporation (ALC) to lease 18 Boeing 737 MAXs, meaning it did not order any Boeing twin-aisle aircraft.

In total, all of the mentioned airlines booked 199 orders for wide body aircraft, excluding Ethiopian Airlines 15 options for the 787-9 and including the African airline’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus for 11 A350-900s.

According to Boeing and Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Emirates, the manufacturer should deliver the first units to the Dubai International Airport (DXB)-based carrier in 2025, with the plane maker still in the middle of the process of getting the type certified by the United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

But, what was indeed impressive was Indian Air Force’s indigenous marvels taking centre stage at the Air Show. The IAF’s contingent was transported to Dubai by their C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, setting the stage for their performances. The IAF’s presence was highlighted  by the inclusion of two indigenously made aircraft: the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv. During the Air Show, the Tejas took part in both static and aerial displays, while the Sarang Helicopter Display Team showcased their exceptional formation aerobatics skills. This return to the Dubai Air Show, following their 2021 appearance, captivated the audience with their performance.

The Minister of State for Defence and Tourism, Ajay K Bhatt, who represented India at the air show as the head of a delegation of senior officials and experts from the defence sector met with his UAE counterpart, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Mohammed Al Bowardi, and their discussion  focused on reviewing ongoing defence cooperation and exploring new avenues for collaboration.

Al Bowardi reiterated his commitment to strengthening defence ties as per the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2017. Among the various subjects discussed by the  two sides included plans for joint exercises in 2024 and an exchange of views on recent regional developments. Minister Bhatt assured Minister Al Bowardi of India’s commitment to peace, harmony, and stability in the region.