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Sat 9 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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As one of the biggest and most successful aerospace events in history, this year's Farnborough International Airshow did not disappoint.

As one of the biggest and most successful aerospace events in history, this year's Farnborough International Airshow did not disappoint.

Clouds of blue and red flooded the skies on the first day of the Farnborough Airshow, marking the beginning of the 60th anniversary celebrations.

As the Red Arrows soared above the crowds, the first wave of visitors poured in to witness the many stands, chalets and aircraft displays.

This year, the UK's largest aerospace event attracted more than 1500 exhibitors and some 140,000 trade visitors, a 5% increase on the 2006 show. In total 39 countries were represented, with 29 regional and international pavilions.

Despite widespread concern about rising oil prices, the airshow's high turnout proved the aviation business is still booming, particularly in the Middle East, with Etihad, Qatar and FlyDubai all investing in new aircraft.

In fact, within the show's first three business days, orders totalling US$35 billion had been announced.

Trevor Sidebottom, managing director of Farnborough International Ltd was delighted by the number of order pronouncements from the airlines in attendance.

"The airline industry continues to be hit by a combination of slowing economies and high fuel prices, which in turn have led to worries that aircraft manufacturers might cancel orders," he says.

"But on the evidence of the first two days at Farnborough, it is clear that both manufacturers and airline carriers are in fact expanding their fleets and routes to satisfy growing demand for air travel."

On the show's first day the Middle East's newest low cost airline, FlyDubai, announced an historic order for 54 Next-Generation 737-800 Boeing aircraft.The carrier's chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, believes these single aisle, 189 seat planes are ideally suited to the business of providing affordable, efficient travel around the region.

And with a flying range of 4.5 hours, the company will have an estimated two billion potential customers.

Ghaith al Ghaith, FlyDubai's CEO thinks the $4 billion investment is a major milestone for the newly established company.

"The ability to make such a significant order highlights the confidence we have in the future of FlyDubai - a confidence which is shared by the government of Dubai and our partners. Now that we have our aircraft on order, we can move on to the next stage of our development and look forward with anticipation to the start of our scheduled flights in the middle of next year."

The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways also announced that it would be continuing its relationship with aircraft manufacturer, Boeing. The list price for the carrier's current order stands at $9 billion and includes 35 B787 Dreamliners and 10 B777-300ER, GE90 engine powered aircraft.

According to Boeing's management, who were present at the show, deliveries will begin in 2011 and be completed in 2020.

The airline's chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan hopes this decision will reinforce the carrier's relationship with Boeing.

"It's a relationship which we value and are keen to develop and enhance," he adds.

Etihad's CEO, James Hogan, who made the announcement, believes the expensive order reflects the pace of economic growth in Abu Dhabi.

"The size of our order also mirrors the rising prominence of the Middle East and its increasing emergence as a new focal point of global aviation. The Gulf is a natural air bridge between east and west," he adds.

After congratulating Etihad on its rapid growth, Boeing chairman, president and CEO, Jim McNerney proceeded to enthuse about the airline's choice to continue its relationship with the aircraft manufacturer.

"Boeing's committed to providing the world's most fuel efficient aeroplanes," he explains. "This is clearly demonstrated by both the 777 and 787, and we know Etihad will benefit from the reliability and efficiency these planes bring to twin-aisle operations," he added.While the UAE-based airlines were announcing new orders with Boeing, Qatar Airways was further establishing its relationship with the company's rival manufacturer, Airbus.

The carrier signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purchase of up to six A321 aircraft - four on firm order and two on option.

Qatar's CEO, Akbar Al Baker says: "The airline's young and fuel efficient fleet of Airbus A320 family of aircraft continues to support the airline's dramatic growth at a time when the airline industry as a whole is struggling with the impact of prevailing high prices."

The addition of these new aircraft brings the number of A321s to 14 and the total narrow body fleet to 27.

Airbus president and CEO Tom Enders says he's pleased to continue the partnership with Qatar, which dates back to 1992.

"The airline's attention to passenger services is legendary, so we are delighted to have it as a major customer of the A321," Enders says.

"As Qatar Airways has evolved into a world class airline our partnership has grown and prospered, and is now set to continue into the future with our latest aircraft," he adds.

Amanda Stainer, the airshow's exhibition and events director was pleased with the show's overall turnout and the number of announcements from major companies.

"I am delighted that show-on-show this area has gone from strength to strength. We've listened to the needs of our customers and delivered what they want, providing them with a platform for selling jets and the right environment for business."

RELATED LINK:The show must go on

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