TIM ROBINSON reports on Day 2 highlights from this year’s Dubai Air Show on 13-17 November
The second day of the Dubai air show dawned and the heat, quite literally was back on. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Day 2.
Airbus strikes back with ALAFCO neo order
With the first day’s order battle effectively conceded to Boeing, Airbus was hoping for the rumoured big Qatar announcement to balance things out. However a series of Qatar press conferences scheduled came and went, indicating perhaps some intense last-minute negotiations.
However, Airbus did secure a commitment for up to 80 Airbus A320neos from Kuwaiti lessor ALAFCO – a increase in an order originally placed for 30 at Paris Air Show in the summer. The order breaks down into 50 firm and 30 options –with the options to be finalised by the end of the year. Value of the deal for the 50 firm aircraft was said to be $4.6bn at list prices.
The win adds yet more airliners to Airbus’ huge backlog (some 1,231 added just this year from Jan-Oct) – a nice position to be in when economic times in Europe seem so uncertain. The deliberate policy of ‘overbooking’ (although Airbus protests it is much more complex than that) has seemed to have worked out well at both Airbus and Boeing, protecting and insulating them from any cancellations or deferrals despite the downturn and economic uncertainty. By betting that some customers will defer, cancel or even want earlier slots, Airbus has not only managed to maintain steady production but is increasing to keep up with demand.
So with a bulging orderbook and production ramping up to cope – will there be any change in this strategy? Airbus top salesman John Leahy was tight-lipped about this, noting: “Someone from Seattle or Brazil may be listening”
VistaJet bucking the trend
A simple and transparent approach ‘you pay us money, we fly you places’ has been the key to business charter operator VistaJet’s success, which is rapidly adding more aircraft and is set to be the launch customer for the Bombardier Global 8000 long-range bizjet. At the show it announced that it is to dedicate a new Challenger 850 to boost its fleet in theMiddle East.
VistaJet has focussed on avoiding the pitfalls of the complex and confusing fractional business aviation market. Notes Ian Moore, Chief Commercial Officer: “A lot of people got their fingers burned”. The downturn, then when customers are wary of entering a fractional agreement, means that VistaJet’s block charter model (begining with 100 hours) is much more attractive. Moore also notes that VistaJet has focused on the emerging markets and BRIC nations where face-to-face dealings are more important than video conference calls and, where again fractional ownership is yet to catch on.
Founded by Thomas Fohr, the company also has pioneered a unique branding experience with its distinctive silver all-Bombardier fleet – ensuring that whatever size aircraft a customer flies the experience will still be the same.
With VistaJet set to double in size by 2015, the company is looking to increase recruitment of pilots – and is keen to employ more local pilots from theMiddle East, Asia-Pacific and the emerging markets it serves.
Oman Air secures 787s
The second day saw another Boeing deal when the Dreamliner got a vote of confidence for Oman Air – with an order for six 787-8s. However the order is not directly from Boeing – but instead sees Oman Air take over Kuwaiti lessor ALAFCO’s existing 787 order.
CSeries flight deck and cabin unveiled
Passing by the chalet line at Dubai Air Show one can’t help noticing a white dome – one part moonbase and one part rave tent. In fact it is the cabin and flightdeck mockup for Bombardiers new CSeries airliner – which is making its first appearance anywhere here at the show.
Inside the cabin is spacious and light – with options for IFE from either Thales or Panasonic. And as for the flightdeck – check out the video interview below with Chet Fuller, SVP sales at Bombardier.
More Typhoon combat debut detail emerges
While the Eurofighter consortium scrambles to respond to the UAE’s short-notice RFP a briefing from the RAF shed more light on the fighter’s combat debut this year over Libya. OC 3(F) Wg Cdr Dicky Patounas explained the RAF has shuffled priorities around, including encrypted radio training, display symbology, Litening pod accuracy to make sure the Typhoon was ready for battle.
He also described how his longest sortie was the equivalent of a flight from Oslo to London to Paris, to Luxembourg and then back to Oslo– a seven hour and fifteen hour minutes trip. These missions were also launched ‘dynamically’, with pilots not knowing of their target until they were airborne – a far cry from even recent meticulously planned air wars like the 1991 Gulf War.
Flying with Tornados the missions were genuinely swing-role with Typhoons vectored off to investigate or engage suspicious aerial contacts that had appeared on the plot. In all cases, by the time the Typhoons got there the contacts (believed to be non-fixed wing) had faded or landed – but the presence of these air superiority fighters overheard helped keep surviving regime air assets bottled up.
Wg Cdr Patounas also refuted the media claim that the RAF lacked ground attack Typhoon pilots – it was just that currency needed to be brought back – with each pilot requiring a different amount of training to regain it – depending on their previous A-G experience. A lesson now that seems to be learnt – though the squadron is currently working on its A-to-A skills, he plans to keep current A-G skills within the squadron up to date at all times.
Interestingly for such a complex jet, the Typhoon not only enjoyed 99% availability during its deployment (a single engine was changed for practice) but the fighter also had minimum ground support at the start. For four days some ten Eurofighters were initially supported by just 34 ground crew until the rest of the squadron arrived.
Boeing reveals Middle Eastmarket forecast
More evidence of the immense growth in the Middle East was provided by Boeing and a briefing by Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing at BCA. He predicts that the region will need some 2,520 aircraft over the next 20 years – as well as 36,000 pilots and 53,000 engineers to fly and maintain them. These aircraft will be worth some $450bn in sales.
Driving this massive growth are of course the big three of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. This was graphically illustrated by a slide during the briefing and which Tinseth commented on, that, following the Emirates 50 aircraft 777 order earlier in the week, the big three Gulf carriers are likely to now have more long-haul seats available than European and Asia-Pacific carriers combined – a staggering statistic.
But it is not just long-haul in theMiddle East– and Tinseth notes that the low-cost airline market is still in its infancy and is expanding fast – driving sales of single-aisle airliners.
MC-21 – taking on neo & MAX
A challenger to the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing is Irkut’s MC-21 single-aisle airliner – which is aiming to marry Russian aerodynamic efficiency with advanced turbofans and a lighter airframe to produce and aircraft that can not just match the A320neo and 737MAX, but beat them.
At a press briefing at the show, Irkut provided an update on the latest progress on the project, with a first flight aimed in 2013 and entry into service slated for 2016. The airliner will come in three versions – MC-21-200, -300 and -400 ranging from 150 to 212 seats.
The company, part of UAC, also outlined the design philosophy of the MC-21. In a particular it points toRussia’s expertise in aerodynamics (indeed the Su-27’s amazing agility and ‘Cobra’ manoeuvres are proof of this) along with advanced engines – with one option being P&W GTF. Increased efficiency says Irkut, means that the fuel can be reduced, leading to a decrease in airframe weight. These three factors taken together, claim the company, means it will be 10% more efficient than the A320neo and 23% better than current aircraft.
The aircraft will also feature some other innovations – including a ‘central locking’ overhead bins controlled by the cabin crew – (to defeat that one passenger who decides to have a rummage in their hand luggage on take-off on landing). The wide fuselage also means for faster emplaning and deplaning – and thus turnarounds.
The company realises it needs a worldwide support network for this aircraft – and is thus currently looking for an international partner.
ATR secures more orders
For turboprop manufacturer ATR – the year just keeps better and better. As well as announcing another firm order for three ATR 42-600s from Russia’s NordStar Airlines (bringing its commitments to seven), ATR revealed that its yearly total now stands at 148 aircraft sold, with another 72 options. A record for the turboprop manufacturer, this backlog is worth some $3.3bn for the firm orders, rising to $4.9bn if options are including.
Indeed the company says that in 2011, in the 50-90 seat airline bracket, ATR has won 80% of sales – and this includes jets.
This success has been relatively recent. During a press briefing at the show, CEO Filippo Bagnato noted that just in the past six years has seen half the total ATRs ordered since the company began in 1981 – a visible sign of how the market has re-embraced turboprops. Not only that, but leasing companies have now got in on the act a sure sign your product has mass appeal and good residual values.
Randy Babbitt at RAeS UAE Branch
Meanwhile the local Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society scored a major coup when it had FAA Administrator to come and give a lecture on ‘Reducing fatigue on long haul operations’. With Emirates Airlines’ network now on the brink of linking up the entire world – the audience were extremely interested in his speech. A Q&A session followed which included questions on balancing rapid growth with safety standards, the introduction of ETS, and whether commuting to your flight duty could be included as part of flight time regulations.
The event was also notable in that it saw the handover from outgoing RAeS UAE Branch Chairman, Tim Jenkins, SVP, Flight Safety, Emirates to incoming Chairman Capt Alan Stealey, Divisional SVP Flight Operations, Emirates. In recognition of Tim Jenkins’ service and contribution to the RAeS, he was awarded the prestigious Branch Recognition certificate for 2011.
Royal Aeronautical Society at ADS Reception
Monday at the air show also saw more networking opportunities for RAeS members at an exclusive VIP reception at the UK Embassy in Dubai, organized by ADS Group and which was sponsored by Cellcrypt, Hypermach and the Royal Aeronautical Society. As well as the UK Ambassador present at the event, the reception also welcomed Defence Minister Gerald Howarth MP, who no doubt was buoyed by the news of a short-notice RFP from the UAE for Eurofighter Typhoon.
On the way to the RAeS lecture, in one of three huge Emirates Airlines crew and technical training centres, this large aircraft model with an Emirates-style tail and EAC (presumably Emirates Aviation College) was glimpsed in one quadrangle. A clue perhaps to their next big aircraft order…?
To follow all the news at Dubai don’t forget to bookmark media.aerosociety.com. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #DXB11 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR