Dubai Airshow: Huge helicopter facility for UAE among day one deals

Edge subsidiary AMMROC will service and maintain Black Hawk Helicopters in Al Ain

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Related: World's smallest Moon rover to carry out test runs in Abu Dhabi

The Dubai Airshow got under way on Sunday with major announcements that point to the future of flight and aerospace technology.

A new facility for Abu Dhabi’s defence technology conglomerate Edge was announced, while the first Under Armour spacesuits for Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft passengers were unveiled to visitors.

A new racing tournament for electric-powered aircraft from Airbus was also revealed as Dubai World Central welcomed the first of 90,000 guests expected this week.

Dancing on the pedals … you can't allow the plane to fly you

Edge subsidiary AMMROC, a joint venture with Lockheed Martin, plans to open a huge maintenance facility connected airside to Al Ain International Airport and is scheduled to open early next year. It will maintain military aircraft such as the Black Hawk helicopter and unmanned drones.

“This new facility will serve existing and new customers, representing the incremental demand created by the regional market,” said Edge chief executive and managing director Faisal Al Bannai.

Aviation and aerospace are a large facet of the UAE’s economic transformation strategy as it diversifies away from oil, with tourism and the localising of manufacturing representing major opportunities to spur growth.

The fleet size of commercial aircraft operators from all regions serving the UAE is forecast to nearly treble to some 1,730 aircraft by 2038 from around 630 today, according to the 2019 Airbus Global Market Forecast (GMF).

Tourism will continue to be a key growth sector for the Middle East with commercial aviation a key enabler, with figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council indicating that tourism’s contribution to Middle Eastern GDP is nearly 9 per cent today.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates- HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan crown pince of Abu Dhabi visiting one of the stand  at the Dubai Airshow 2019 at Maktoum Airport.  Leslie Pableo for the National

At the Mubadala stand, which owns a stake in Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, two Under Armour spacesuits for the commercial space travel company's first flights were on display. Testing in the Mojave Desert in the US for flights to take tourists to space is set to begin in "months not years", a spokeswoman told The National.

Meanwhile, a technology comparatively in its infancy, electric-powered flight got a boost with an announcement from Airbus. An air racing tournament for electric-powered aircraft was announced on Sunday, the world's first, as the Netherlands-headquartered aviation giant aims to increase the sustainability of its aircraft.

The ambition is to be the world's first all-electric airplane competition when it begins its inaugural series of international races in 2020. It expects to this week name eight teams for its first race, Reuters reported.

Airside at the airshow, an Air Race E aircraft built by the UK’s Condor Aviation, which will manufacture all of the planes for the Airbus tournament, was among the smallest on display.

Lithium batteries installed under the fuselage of the plane will provide power for five minutes of intense racing at speeds of 480 kph and around 10 minutes of reserve flying at reduced power, the firm said.

"It's like looking out of a goldfish bowl," Dean Speight the director of engineering at Condor told The National of sitting in the pint-sized cockpit.

“Dancing on the pedals … you can’t allow the plane to fly you.”

At the airshow in the afternoon, the UAE Ministry of Defence displayed an F16, while the Saudi Hawks, the Royal Saudi Air Force aerobatic team, and the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, the precision aerobatics demonstration unit of the French Air Force, both spewed their national colors from tail pipes.

The massive Airbus A330 also made slow loops in front of onlookers. Controlled by a kind of joystick, the experience of piloting one is “like playing a video game”, said one airshow commentator.