The Middle East's most important aerospace fair brings together aircraft and airborne equipment manufacturers, including Russian and Spanish ones

Airbus and Boeing fight a new commercial battle in the skies over Dubai

PHOTO/Dubái Airshow - Airbus y Boeing rivalizan por salir ganadoras de Dubái en cuanto a número de aeronaves vendidas y volumen de negocio comprometido
PHOTO/Dubai Airshow - Airbus and Boeing are vying to come out of Dubai winners in terms of number of aircraft sold and turnover committed

The 2023 edition of one of the five most important aerospace shows in the world and, without a doubt, the most important of those taking place in the Middle East, will be held from 13 to 18 November in Dubai, in the Union of Arab Emirates. 

The event, which brings thousands of company executives from the sector to the populous city of the Emirates every two years, becomes a battlefield for the unique duel for supremacy that the American company Boeing and the European Airbus have been waging for decades.

Dubai is the stage where the Frenchman Guillaume Faury, at the head of Airbus, and the American Stanley Deal, who occupy the top positions of the two large corporations that lead the manufacture of commercial passenger aircraft on a global scale, will once again meet and compete against each other.  

PHOTO/Dubái Media Office - Las autoridades del país anfitrión y los altos directivos de la aerolínea Emirates han apostado por confiar una vez más en el nuevo bimotor transoceánico 777X de Boeing
PHOTO/Dubai Media Office - The authorities of the host country and the top management of Emirates airline have once again placed their trust in Boeing's new twin-engine transoceanic 777X

Both companies are trying to win in Dubai to announce major contracts to sell aircraft to airlines around the world, both in terms of number of aircraft and turnover. For the time being, Boeing has a wide lead in the bloodless but self-serving contest with the European industrial giant.  

On the first day of the show, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, head of state-owned Emirates, reaffirms his interest in Boeing's new twin-engine transoceanic 777X and buys 90 units for just under $52 billion. It makes the airline the largest customer for such a model, seating up to 400 passengers. Considered the successor to the legendary 747 Jumbo, it is destined to take over from the airline's more than 100 Airbus A380s to "connect cities around the world and resist pressure from Turkish Airlines".

PHOTO/Dubái Airshow - Flydubai, compañía low-cost filial de Emirates, ha decidido ampliar su mercado de clientes y entrar en los vuelos de larga distancia con la compra a Boeing de 30 aparatos 787 Dreamliner
PHOTO/Dubai Airshow - Emirates' low-cost subsidiary Flydubai has decided to expand its customer base and enter the long-haul market by purchasing 30 787 Dreamliners from Boeing

Airbus behind... for the moment

Also on the opening day, the low-cost airline SunExpress and Boeing surprised everyone by announcing the signing of a contract worth nearly 5.7 billion dollars for the purchase and sale of 45 Boeing 737 MAX. Who is SunExpress? It is a company founded in 1990 and formed in equal parts by Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, which by 2022 has transported nearly "11 million passengers to 175 destinations in 30 countries", according to the airline itself. 

Another major package signed by Boeing in Dubai is Ethiopian Airlines, the African airline with the youngest and largest fleet - 144 aircraft - which has signed for eleven twin-engine 787 Dreamliners. It is also acquiring a score of 737 MAXs, a model Ethiopian is once again relying on, despite the design flaw that led to a fatal accident in March 2019 in which 157 people lost their lives. The company has received full assurances from the Seattle-based builder that the defects have been "fully corrected". 

Flydubai, a low-cost airline subsidiary of Emirates, has decided to change its commercial strategy, expand its customer market and enter long-haul flights with the purchase of 30 787 Dreamliners from Boeing. The trickle of contracts in favour of the American manufacturer is completed by Royal Air Maroc and Royal Jordanian, with 2 and 4 787s respectively. 

PHOTO/Dubái Airshow - El presidente ejecutivo de Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Stanley Deal, se muestra satisfecho tras cerrar la transacción con los responsables de Flydubai, que han adquirido 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliner
PHOTO/Dubai Airshow - Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stanley Deal is satisfied after closing the deal with Flydubai officials, who have acquired 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners

And what about Airbus? For the moment, it is a long way behind Boeing. Egyptair has ordered 10 Airbus A350s and AirBaltic has ordered 30 A220s for about $2.7 billion. But Airbus has not yet lost the Dubai battle. Indeed, it can win it if Turkish Airlines closes a deal that has been under negotiation for months. 

The deal at stake is for 250 medium-haul A321NEOs, a hundred long-haul Airbus A350s and five A350F freighters. Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO, travelled to Turkey and visited Bilal Ekşi, CEO of Turkish Airlines. He did so before landing in Dubai to attend the Emirates Air Show. So the outcome of the deal is very close and would change the outcome of the duel.

PHOTO/Dubái Airshow - Al salón de Dubái llegan miles de directivos de compañías fabricantes de aeronaves y de equipamientos aeronáuticos para mostrar sus novedades a las autoridades de los países de la zona y a sus empresarios
PHOTO/Dubai Airshow - Thousands of executives from aircraft and aeronautical equipment manufacturers come to the Dubai Airshow to show their innovations to the authorities of the countries in the region and their businessmen

Countries with the largest number of companies

The Dubai show is one of the few that are open to Russia's aerospace industry. The Emirati government has not put obstacles in the way of its presence, as other similar fairs have - for example, the French Le Bourget or the British Farnborough - due to the sanctions imposed by Brussels on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

In Dubai, Russia's official armaments export hub, Rosoboronexport, concentrates its 13 main aircraft and weapons system manufacturers in a national pavilion of more than 750 square metres. Inside and in the adjacent open-air area, export versions of the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation twin-engine stealth fighter, the highly manoeuvrable Su-35 multi-role fighter, the Mil Mi-28N combat helicopter and the Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopter, the latter of which specialises in destroying armoured vehicles, are on display.

PHOTO/Rosoboronexport - Rusia ha estado presente no solo con sus principales aeronaves militares para exportación, sino también con su amplia gama de sus nuevos misiles RVV-MD2 y RVV-BD, en segundo plano
PHOTO/Rosoboronexport - Russia was present not only with its main military aircraft for export, but also with its wide range of new RVV-MD2 and RVV-BD missiles in the background

The transport aircraft branch features the veteran Mil Mi-171Sh helicopter and the Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A four-engine strategic jet, with its on-board systems "more than 70 per cent digitised", according to the manufacturer. Also on display are the RVV-BD and RVV-MD2 air-to-air missiles for export and the Kh-69 cruise missile, which will arm the Su-57.

The 2023 Dubai Aerospace Show attracts many hundreds of companies from all over the world. The nation with the largest number is not the host country, the Emirates, which is present with 131 companies. It is the United States, with 133 companies, followed by the United Kingdom (50), France (49), Italy (45), China (40), Australia (32), Canada (20), Germany (19), Saudi Arabia (18), India (16) and Turkey (8)

PHOTO/Rosoboronexport - Rosoboronexport, la institución oficial rusa dedicada a la exportación de sistemas de armas concentra a sus 13 principales fabricantes del sector aeroespacial en un pabellón de más de 750 metros cuadrados
PHOTO/Rosoboronexport - Rosoboronexport, the official Russian institution dedicated to the export of weapons systems, brings together its 13 main aerospace manufacturers in a pavilion of more than 750 square metres

Israel, a guest country at the show since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, will only be represented by five companies, three of which are major players in the international aerospace and defence sector, such as Elbit, Israel Aircrat Industries and Rafael. Spain is represented by six companies: ITP Aero, a manufacturer of aeronautical engine subsystems; Satlantis, specialised in the development of very high resolution optical instruments for satellites. 

Also Isdefe, a public consultancy and engineering company that collaborates with the UAE Ministry of Defence on military airworthiness issues; Crisalion Mobility, which is developing an electric aircraft (eVTOL) with vertical take-off and landing for passenger and cargo transport; Gaptek, focused on building innovative terminals, hangars, workshops and warehouses; and Immfly, dedicated to specialised aeronautical software.

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