Dubai Air Show 2021: Here’s what you can expect

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Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty pictures

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Dubai’s last international air show, in November 2019, feels like another era.

Just a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic turned travel upside down, the much-attended biennial aviation event celebrated an industry that looks very different today.

But almost two years after the travel and aviation industry almost stopped, the market is picking up speed again.

The Dubai Air Show 2021 starts on Sunday 14 November. Here’s what you can expect:

The recovery of the travel industry?

Things have looked up for travel with the continued successful rollout of vaccination campaigns and easing of governments’ Covid restrictions.

“Executives are cautiously optimistic about the future,” aviation analysts at consulting firm Accenture wrote in a note ahead of the fair.

The company predicts a growth of 13% year-on-year in 2022 for the commercial aerospace industry globally, although the year will still be 4% below 2019 levels.

Dubai’s flagship Emirates Airline – the Middle East’s largest airline and largest aircraft buyer – has benefited from this recovery and reduced its previous losses by an 86% increase in revenue for its half-year result for the 2021-2022 financial year.

Nevertheless, concerns about potential new Covid variants, inflation and rising energy prices leave significant uncertainty for the industry. Dubai’s show will certainly see lots of discussions about the industry’s recovery, as well as how aviation has become safer and more hygienic due to the pandemic.

Partly because of that uncertainty and also because Dubai hosts a smaller air show than the events in Paris or Farnborough, analysts do not expect to see many major orders this year. This is also because the order books for Gulf vessels “tend to be more broad-body-focused,” said Sheila Kahyaoglu, an aviation and defense analyst at Jefferies. “So I think given that international traffic is slower, I do not think it will be a catalyst for more orders.”

Supply chain problems

The crisis in the global supply chain has affected many sectors, and the aviation industry has been no exception.

In aviation, the supply chain most often affects the defense area, Kahyaoglu said. “In communications systems, ships, semiconductor devices – just about anywhere it hits the rest of the world.”

In the business jet segment, there is less of an impact as fewer private jets are manufactured per year than other types of aircraft, but it still creates a bit of a shortage of parts, so OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] must be aware of their material purchases, “said Kahyaoglu.

More than half of air and space managers – 55% – “expressed lower confidence in the timeliness and quality of their supply chain over the next six months”, according to Accenture.

Load winning

Only one air traffic segment has exceeded the 2019 levels, and that is freight.

People may have stopped traveling for a long time, but e-commerce and the movement of products have continued to grow. Before the pandemic, a significant volume of cargo was transported in the stomach at passenger level. But after those plans went offline when travel restrictions increased, says Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, “all of a sudden people said, ‘Hey, we need dedicated cargo planes because that cargo is not available.’ “

Expect to see Airport bus and Boeing – the world’s two largest airlines by revenue – shows new large cargo versions of existing aircraft, said Aboulafia.

“You’ll see Airbus talk about, maybe even launch, a cargo version of the A350 XWB jetliner,” he told CNBC.

“And you might see exactly the same thing from Boeing with the freight version of the 777X, the latest version of the 777, which has composite wings and such. It’s going to be really interesting to see because the bay is a pretty big cargo market.”

In fact, in Emirates Airlines’ latest half-year results, freight operations were robust, with an increase of 39% and brought operations to 90% of the volume it had in 2019.

Military sales

In terms of defense, it remains to be seen whether the sale of the Lockheed Martin F-35 II Joint Strike fighter jet to the United Arab Emirates, written during the last day of the Trump administration, will see any progress. The huge $ 23 billion sale, which consists mainly of 50 F-35 jets and at least 18 armed drones, is still being negotiated between Washington and Abu Dhabi.

In the past, US laws and export regulations prevented it from selling lethal drones or F-35s to any of its Arab allies. But changes implemented by the Trump administration have made this possible, which means that if completed, it would be the first sale of F-35 and US-made armed drones to any Arab.

There is also a “general trend towards continued modernization of navies, mostly modernized fourth-generation platforms,” ​​said Justin Bronk, a researcher in aerospace and technology at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

The fourth generation broadly refers to combat aircraft in operation from the 1980s until now, with multi-combat roles and more advanced technology than its predecessors, such as infrared search and track capabilities and digital avionics.