Dubai Airshow 2015
The 14th Dubai Airshow kicked off a busy period of events to be held in the Middle East, with all the regions major air shows being held over the winter. Following the record airline orders at the 2013 show, when over $200 Billion of deals were announced, such huge amounts can't happen at every show, with this years commercial orders being topped by the announcement of a Jet Airways deal for 75 B737 MAX 8's. Infact, more interest on current military deals were the main talking points this year, even if there were few announcements and confirmation of some major orders. These included the continuing wait for announcements on reported potential deals from Kuwait (Super Hornet), Qatar (F-15) and the long-awaited UAE order for 60 Rafale. The showpiece UAE show is the obvious place where this big order is expected to be announced, and at a quickly arranged news conference on the final day, it was announced that... there would be NO announcement! With "the deal still being negotiated", surely there won't be another two year wait for this protracted deal to be announced?! Indeed, it was then reported that the UAE Crown Prince had said that the proposed terms were "uncompetitive and unworkable", which gives an indication to the reasons behind the delay, also blamed on the "arrogance" of Dassault. Possibly related, the presence of RAF Typhoons at this year's show can be read into... or not.
Enough of the 'politics' and onto the aircraft present this year, which as always had enough highlights to be of interest, during a two day visit to the show, on 8th & 9th November. With a 'large' presence by the ME3 airlines, vying for bragging rights on who had the biggest/best/newest aircraft at the show, it was the more 'modest' aircraft that were the main interest, certainly for the enthusiast. In no particular order, these included the Mid East debut of the Bombardier C-Series, with test CS100 C-GWXZ (the fifth prototype) painted in the colours of launch customer Swiss. Parked next to this was very nice Egyptian CRJ-900 SU-CCB of Petroleum Air Services, while Superjet SSJ-100 I-PDVY painted in Interjet colours, was delivered five weeks later as XA-VAS, as part of their order for 21 aircraft. SSJ's for the non-Russian region are painted and fiited out in Venice, hence the Italian test reg. Then, an interesting older airliner present, was the 'Long Range' GainJet B737-400 SX-ATF. This was registered as N37LR in the US for 'Auxiliary Fuel' tank modification, before being re-delivered just before the show (infact it was still officially registered as N37LR until the 12th). Nothing amazing of the biz-jets present, apart from Moldovan EMB-135BJ ER-KKL of Nobil Air (pulled into the static on the 9th), and the first sight of an Emirates Flight Training Academy Phenom 100E being of most interest. PR-PFH is one of five on order, along with 22 Cirrus SR-22, with N985EK also present in the static. One other GA worth a mention was PC-12 demonstrator HB-FWA painted in a very nice Pilatus 75th anniversary special scheme, as designed by Swiss artist Hans Erni. Finally on the civil stuff, two nice UAE De Havilland's (or Bombardier) also present in the static, were DHC-6-300 DU-SD5 of Skydive Dubai, and Abu Dhabi based DHC-8-400Q A6-ADM of Abu Dhabi Aviation (the newest of their fleet of seven), while Lion Air subsidiary, Wings Air ATR-72-600 PK-WHP was shown on the 9th while it was passing through on delivery. This was the 48th of 50 ordered, with the last two delivered by the end of the year.
Getting on to the military, among a good selection of UAE AF aircraft present, these included one of their three A330-200MRTT's in service, with 1301 in the static, along with a quite unusual but impressive IOMAX Archangel BPA (Border Patrol Aircraft), with recently delivered 2362 showing its heavily-armed configuration. Based on the Thrush S2R-T660P, the UAE have 24 of these on order, to replace their earlier Block 1 & 2 AT-802 BPA's, which are being donated to Jordan and 'others' (reportedly the allies in Yemen?). Of the choppers present, brand new AW-139 360 of the NSRC (National Search and Rescue Center), was joined from KSA by recently delivered Bell 412EP of the SRCA (Saudi Red Cross Aviation), who's id was only given away on a data plate in the cockpit (as not worn externally), with N485PH expected to take up a HZ-RCxx reg. Then, foreign military included the first French AF A400M seen, with 0019/F-RBAG from ET01.061 at Orleans, along with Rafale C 110/104-IN from EC03.030 locally based at Al Dhafra, while two demonstrators present were MC-27J C.S.X62127, along with Antonov's An-178 prototype UR-EXP, which first flew in May of this year. US military presence included tiger marked F-15E 91-0600/MO from Mountain Home AFB, detached locally with the Al Dhafra based 380thAEW, along with Marines MV-22B 168234/YQ-01 marked 'VMM-America' (with a 'SPMAGTF-CR-CC' badge on one of the fins), Navy P-8A 168434/LN with high-viz VP-45 marks, Bahrain based MH-53E 162507/TB-07 of HM-15 'Blackhawks', as well as Army CH-47F 09-08823 marked 'Colorado' (possibly on TDY in Kuwait).
As well as the static choppers, two others photographed flying, in addition to some VIP AW-139 movements, were UAE AF CH-47F 2508 and UH-60M 2667. Then, a very nice rare catch, was the departing Kazakhstan Air Force Tu-154M UP-T5401, along with Oman AF A320 556, while some of the more interesting airline movements caught were ArkeFly B737-800(SW) PH-TFD (with '10 Jaar' logo), along with freighters... Ethiopian Cargo B777-200F ET-ARH, Uzbekistan Airways B767-300ER(BCF) UK-67001 (converted to freighter three months earlier), Martinair Cargo MD-11F PH-MCU, and Malaysia Airlines B747-400F's 9M-MPR and 9M-MPS. Finally, of the flying display, its always cool to see a big airliner getting thrown around, with Airbus test A350-900 F-WWCF (002) painted in a nice black 'carbon' scheme, getting pulled from the static each day to do its thing. Highlights though had to be the locally based Raptor & Bone, which were awesome as usual, flying in daily for the show without landing. Hickam F-22A 04-4064/HH of the 199thFS is detached with the 380thAEW at Al Dhafra, while Ellsworth B-1B 86-0121/EL of the 37thBS (painted with 'Symphony of Destruction' nose art), is detached at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar with the 379thAEW. A rare B-1B display these day, with some great high speed top-side passes, was my pick of a very enjoyable show overall.
For those that recall the 'good old days' of the show being held at DXB, the new venue at DWC is having a lot to live up to. However, the UAE's premier airshow organisers are showing that they can still put on a top class event.
Report by Kevin Perry for Combat Air Journal, with many thanks to F&E Aerospace PR Manager, Kate Taylor, for her kind assistance with arranging the media access to the show.