Saturday, November 12, 2011

Better aviation outlook lifts hopes of aircraft makers

Emerging bullish air travel trends and improved outlook forecast made by International Air Transport Association (IATA) on global and Middle East airlines’ profitability have raised hopes that Dubai Airshow’s 2011 edition, the spectacle featuring 1,000 exhibitors, would see the world’s major aircraft makers sealing billions of dollars worth of new orders from the region’s carriers that are pressing ahead with their fleet expansion plans.

The industry group has said it expected the global aviation industry to make a $6.9 billion profit in 2011, up from $4 billion previously projected. It has also raised its profit outlook for Middle East airlines which are on track to book a net profit of $800 million this year, sharply up from an earlier projection of $100 million.

The reasoning behind the brightening prospects despite lingering clouds of unstable global economic situation and the still festering political unrest in the region is the strong surge in passenger numbers, according to IATA.

In an earlier forecast, IATA, which represents around 230 airlines in over 115 countries, slashed its profit forecast for the Middle East carriers to $100 million, down 89 per cent from its earlier forecast of $900 million.

It also had predicted that the global airline industry profit would plunge 54 per cent to $4 billion compared with the $8.6 billion profit forecast made in March and a 78 per cent drop compared with the $18 billion net profit recorded in 2010.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and CEO had said global airlines would make a little more money in 2011 than earlier predicted. “Given the strong headwinds of high oil prices and economic uncertainty, remaining in the black is a great achievement,” he said. Middle East carriers are the second largest beneficiary of the better than expected passenger demand, according to IATA.

A Boeing official sounded very upbeat about winning more orders at the airshow, particularly for its flagship 777 aircraft, which is marking a milestone with its 1,000th aircraft expected to be delivered to the UAE national carrier Emirates in 2012.

European aircraft maker Airbus is also hoping to reap a good harvest with new orders for its A350 and A380, apart from boosting the order book of its fast selling A320s.

Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, also had hinted that the carrier would be looking for more aircraft purchases at the show which is set to attract 55,000 trade visitors.

Another fastest growing carrier from the region, Qatar Airways, also has given indications of sealing a “multi-billion-dollar aircraft order” at the event that has become a global forum for the Middle East aerospace market while providing a window highlighting the achievement and buying power of the region.

Running from November 13 to 17 at Airport Expo Dubai, the show will feature an impressive line-up comprising the cream of the world’s aviation industry suppliers and manufacturers.

According to Alison Weller, managing director of F&E Aerospace — the organisers of the Dubai Airshow — both Emirates airline and Qatar Airways are likely to announce major fleet expansion plans at the show which has been designed to provide a platform for exhibitors to network with the aerospace industry and market their products in the Middle East.

As a result of the growing international appeal of the show, some 20 per cent of trade visitors are expected to come from outside the region.

Among the main attractions at the show will be the dream debut in the region of Boeing’s 757 Dreamliner. Other stars of the show include the Bell/Boeing V-22 Tilt Rotor, a unique aircraft that can perform both vertical take-off and landing and short take-off and landing; and the MA600, manufactured by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industry Co Ltd. The 60-seater is making its overseas at the show.

The show, being staged two weeks before the 40th anniversary of the UAE National Day, also become an ideal venue to highlight the country’s achievements in aerospace over four decades.

Other highlight of the show include the inaugural Gulf Aviation Training Event that takes place on November 14 and 15. It will focus on future flight training requirements for the Middle East’s rapidly-growing air transport industry. More than 100 aircraft will be featured at the static display are of the venue.

The 2009 edition of the biennial show drew 890 exhibitors from 47 countries and almost 53,000 industry professionals from 138 countries — an 18 per cent rise in attendance.

Organisers said as a platform for the industry, Dubai Airshow offers opportunities for participants to address key issues, create debate and highlight the UAE’s achievements. To this end, the event has lined up three new initiatives: celebration of the country’s 40th anniversary, the launch of ‘Futures Day’, in co-operation with Rolls-Royce as Gold Sponsor and Boeing and Dubai Air Navigation Services as Silver Sponsors. The last day of the show is billed as Futures Day at which a number of the nation’s youth are expected to take part.

Spread over more than 325,000 square metres, the Dubai Airshow will be the largest trade show in Dubai. The static park will display an F18, F15, C17, C-130J and an Apache MH-60 from the US government and an array of business jets from companies such as Gulfstream, Bombardier and Cessna.

Helicopters are also making a big appearance at this year’s show, with companies such as Russian Helicopters, Sikorsky, Bell and MD Helicopters, and Quest, showcasing their wares.

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