Deals struck on third day of Dubai Airshow focus on growing aviation ecosystem

The aviation sector is doubling down on efforts to ensure it will be able to cater to high demand

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Deals at the Dubai Airshow focused on ramping up the infrastructure and services ecosystems of the UAE's aviation landscape amid expected high demand.

The UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority launched a Dh700 million ($190.5 million) programme aimed at the modernisation of air navigation services over the next decade, amid the continued growth of the aviation sector.

The initiative seeks to upgrade services at the Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre by developing advanced technological solutions, investing in human capital and supporting Emiratisation.

The move comes as the industry experiences growth in air traffic, significant infrastructure projects in the UAE's airports and the expansion of local airlines' fleet and network destinations, Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, said.

“There is a logical need for a corresponding increase in airspace capacity and capabilities. This is crucial to bolster the country's position as a regional and international aviation hub,” he said.

The aviation sector continues to post a substantial rebound after economies reopened and travel curbs were lifted following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Global passenger traffic rebounded to 97.3 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels in September, the International Air Transport Association reported last week.

On Wednesday, Dubai International Airport said it expects its annual passenger traffic to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023 with a new forecast of 86.8 million travellers, driven by strong growth in the first three quarters of the year.

Dubai Airports revised its forecast upwards from an earlier projection in August of 85 million passengers. The world’s busiest hub by international traffic recorded 86.4 million travellers in 2019.

Aviation is also a key contributor to the economy: the sector adds about 14 per cent to the UAE's gross domestic product, GCAA data shows.

The International Air Transport Association expects the industry to grow by 170 per cent by 2037, supporting 1.4 million jobs compared to the current 777,000. It is forecast to contribute about $128 billion to the country's economy.

“It is natural to work on new investment plans to update air navigation services by employing the latest advanced technology, embracing innovations such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, to achieve the highest levels of safety, efficiency, accuracy and increase airspace capacity,” said Ahmed Al Jallaf, assistant director general for air navigation services at the GCAA.

Deals continue to fly

Emirates signed agreements worth more than $1.5 billion with major industry players as it furthered its commitment to investments to improving operational efficiency.

The Dubai-based airline expanded its network of service providers to grow its aviation aftermarket and maintenance, repair and overhaul services, teaming up with Honeywell, Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Safran, Lufthansa Technik, OEM Services, Gameco, Haeco and others.

“We want to ensure our fleet is in tip-top shape,” Emirates president Tim Clark said.

Emirates' sister airline flydubai said it was planning to build a $190 million MRO complex in Dubai South, aimed at contributing to the growth and sustainability of the aviation industry.

The construction of the new hangar and workshop will begin in 2024 and is slated to be completed by the last quarter of 2026.

Ethiopian Airlines continued to ramp up its fleet after it placed an order for 11 Airbus A350-900s, which will cement its position as the largest operator of the aircraft in Africa.

The agreement, which will take the airline's total A350 order and commitment book to 33, is expected to improve Ethiopian's long-haul operations.

It also comes a day after the airline placed an order for about 67 Boeing aircraft as it aims to become one of the top 20 leading airlines globally by 2035.

Sikorsky, the aviation unit of US major Lockheed Martin, signed a partnership with the UAE's military maintenance company Ammroc to make the latter the first international authorised service centre for Lockheed Martin Black Hawk helicopters in the Emirates.

Sanad Group, the aerospace solutions provider owned by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment Company, signed a partnership with France's Thales to bolster the maintenance and delivery of essential airport systems to ensure the safety and efficiency of major travel hubs in the Middle East and Africa.

The UAE's Edge Group also signed multiple deals, including a $300 million defence deal with the UAE Armed Forces and a collaboration with Italy's Leonardo.

Edge's units were also active. EPI, its engineering arm, announced that it will manufacture and supply fuel tanks for Airbus Defence and Space, while its helicopter training academy Horizon teamed up with Parker Lord for engineering collaborations.

Also, its autonomous services unit Adasi and Lahab Defence Systems won contracts worth Dh487 million and Dh4.1 billion, respectively, to supply munitions to the Ministry of Defence.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt enhanced their aviation co-operation and exchange of expertise with the signing of an agreement to use their airlines' training complexes.

As part of the partnership, EgyptAir will be able to use the Saudia Academy's Boeing 787 Dreamliner training simulator, while Saudia will be able to utilise certain aviation equipment at the EgyptAir Training Academy, specifically the Airbus A330.

Updated: November 15, 2023, 1:41 PM