The Dubai Air Show opens to industry on the mend amid Covid-19.
This year, however, the five-day exhibition is expected to be much more muted than in past years due to the subdued state of flying and travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic and delays in the global supply chain that have affected plane manufacturers.
The jet is a less pricey competitor to the US F-35, which the United Arab Emirates has been trying to acquire since formally recognising Israel last year in a deal brokered by the Trump administration. That sale has slowed under President Joe Biden.
An Emirati airman inspecting a US-made Chinook CH-47 noted that the transport helicopter had been supporting Emirati forces on recent missions in Yemen and Afghanistan.
Israeli companies, meanwhile, displayed their hardware for the first time at the air show following Israel’s normalisation of diplomatic ties with the UAE last year.
The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries company showed off a range of manned and unmanned naval and aerial drones.
Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems displayed its “drone dome” that detects and destroys drones with lasers.
Emirati defense officials were seen asking about the range and weight of the anti-drone system at the Israeli pavilion. In all, six Israeli companies are taking part in the air show.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz described the UAE-Israel partnership as a “strategic asset,” saying in a statement that the Defense Ministry’s participation “reflects the deepening relations” between the two nations.
The agreement sees budget carriers Wizz Air purchase 102 new planes, US Frontier with 91, Mexico’s Volaris with 39 and South American JetSmart with 23. The package includes a mix of A321neo and A321XLR aircraft.
The air show in Dubai is one of the first major aviation trade shows to take place since the start of the pandemic.
Dubai went into a brief lockdown last year, but has since swung open its doors to vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers as it tries to lure back leisure and business spending and draw visitors to its multibillion-dollar EXPO 2020 World’s Fair site.
The tarmac outside the exhibition hall showcased the latest innovations in commercial aviation as well as the global arms trade, and the continued push by companies to sell their hardware.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro roamed the tarmac outside the booth of iconic Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, inspecting the interior of the company’s hulking C-390 Millennium transport aircraft, smiling and waving to crowds of reporters.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly surveyed the range of helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft at the Airbus pavilion, surrounded by French airmen in uniform.
Boeing brought its new 777-9 passenger jet from Seattle in the longest flight to date for the 777X as it undergoes continued tests and awaits regulatory approval.
Boeing says the aircraft will be the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet.
The Middle East’s largest carrier, Emirates, has ordered 126 of the 777X, but the Dubai-based airline has expressed frustration with delays around its delivery, which is not expected before late 2023.
Boeing continues to face scrutiny for its 737 Max aircraft, which was grounded globally until recently following two crashes that killed nearly 350 people.
Boeing had to make changes to flight software that played a role in the crashes, paid an undisclosed sum to airlines that were affected by the aircraft’s grounding and has settled dozens of lawsuits filed by families of passengers killed in the crashes.
Airbus took journalists through a A320neo, which had been converted into a luxury corporate jet replete with a large bed, walk-in shower and sprawling sitting area with couches and coffee tables.
China’s state-owned defense firm CATIC displayed a range of anti-aircraft missiles, munitions and fighter jets.
Also on display is Russia’s Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet, which will be shown to the public later Sunday.
Dubai’s biennial Air Show opened Sunday to a world still reeling from the pandemic and an aviation industry hard-hit by the coronavirus, but on the mend.
Boeing and Airbus have traditionally been the stars of the aviation trade show, competing for multibillion-dollar Gulf-based airline purchases and hammering out final details minutes before back-to-back press conferences.
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