Dubai Air Show 2021 Highlights and key moments for African Airlines

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The Dubai Airshow 2021, is a four-day live and in-person aerospace event and the only one taking place in 2021.

The Dubai Airshow 2021 launched on 14 November at Dubai’s World Central (DWC) brought the aviation community back together in a way not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world in the last 20 months.

The aerospace event has featured more than 1,200 exhibitors, representatives from 148 countries, more than 80 start-ups, decision makers in attendance and over 20 country pavilions, bringing together the industry leaders in aircraft manufacturing, airline and aircraft servicers, commercial airlines, and business aviation companies, all making appearances as they look to showcase new products, court customers, and reintroduce themselves to the world after an almost 20-month hiatus.

Highlights of the DAS2021,

Day 1

Sunday 14, was relatively light on news, but did have much anticipation and fanfare as Boeing performed the first flying demonstration of the Boeing 777X over Al Maktoum International Airport.

However, European airframer Airbus announced it had racked up a massive deal with Indigo Partners, an American private equity firm that has its hands in hundreds of markets worldwide through its portfolio of airlines.

The company — which controls Denver-based Frontier Airlines and Chilean low-cost carrier JetSmart and also is a partial owner of European low-cost carrier Wizz Air and Mexico’s Volaris — said it would acquire 255 Airbus A321neo aircraft for its airlines.

Day 2

Boeing orders

After much anticipation, Day 2 of DAS2021 saw the two aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus record orders from several airline companies with East African carrier, Air Tanzania announcing it will top up its fleet with orders for one 787-8, a 767-300 freighter and two 737 MAX.

Airbus Orders

On Airbus stand, the European planemaker received orders from Nigeria’s Ibom Air for 10 A220s, which will grow the Nigerian carrier’s A220 fleet to 12.

The order for the A220 will be added to the end of an already massive backlog Airbus is currently looking at for the aircraft type, which it took control of from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier in mid-2018.

The Toulouse, France-based manufacturer also announced another massive order, this time with American aircraft lessor Air Lease Corporation (ALC).

ALC’s order ran the gamut of Airbus aircraft, with the company saying it would add 25 Airbus A220-300s, 55 A321neos, 20 A321XLRs, four Airbus A330neos and for the first time, an order for seven Airbus A350 freighters to its fleet.

ALC Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy said the deal was reflective of the anticipated recovery of the industry in the years ahead. “ALC was the launch customer for the very popular A321LR and XLR versions,” Udvar-Hazy said in a statement.

“Now, we become the launch lessor for the A350F and by far the largest lessor customer for the A220. We had the vision to be first adopters of the A321 and are convinced we have made the right choice again on the A220 and A350F, responding to what we see the market will need in the period of recovery ahead.”

Airbus Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury said at the show that the A350F has the potential to become the first aircraft to be flown by a single pilot in the years ahead.

Overland Airways orders upto six E175 

Embraer announced it had secured a firm order for three E175 regional jets and purchase rights for three more from Nigeria’s Overland Airways.

Valued at $299.4 million at list prices, the aircraft will increase the African nation’s access to domestic flights and allow it to launch more regional routes. Plans call for deliveries to start in 2023.

Embraer looks at the freighter Conversion programmes

Embraer acknowledged the growing demand for cargo aircraft, for the first time announcing publicly it is studying the cargo market with a view of launching a freighter conversion programme for its E-Jets after identifying increased demand for smaller cargo aircraft as a result of the boom in air freight seen in the current aviation landscape.

The Brazilian manufacturer said it is forecasting demand for around 700 aircraft in the up-to-150-seat segment over the next 20 years as part of its latest market outlook – the first time it has included freight in its forecast.

ATR Partnerships

ATR announced it has signed an agreement with Gabonese carrier Afrijet for three ATR 72-600 aircraft, with the African airline now having a total of four units.

The new aircraft will be equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW127XT-M engines part of the unveiled PW127XT series of turboprop engines for regional aircraft announced on the second day of the Dubai Airshow 2021.

Pratt & Whitney company launched jointly with ATR the PW127XT-M, the first variant of the type, designed with the latest materials and technologies to deliver the next level of efficiency, time-on-wing and service and offers word-class reliability and increased value for ATR 42/72 aircraft.

Air Senegal fleet Expansion

In addition to those announcement, Air Senegal also looked to top up its fleet announcing it would acquire five Airbus A220-300s under a lease agreement with a division of Macquarie.

The Senegalese national airline had previously signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for eight A220s in November 2019, valued at USD 739 million at the listed price.

The Australian leasing company Macquarie Airfinance announced the lease to Air Senegal of five single-aisle aircraft designed in Canada, with the first deliveries scheduled from 2023.

Air Senegal will use the A220-300 “to link Dakar to regional and European destinations. The airline’s investment is part of a 20-year plan to develop travel and tourism in Senegal

Day 3

Day 3 of the show was most relaxed, but no less busy than the first two.

The flying and static demonstrations continued for companies from across the industry as each looked to leave the week with a heavier order book than when they arrived. Over 160 aircraft were on display from top international aerospace leaders.

Airbus Flight Hour Service

Airbus announced that two airlines from Africa had selected Airbus Flight Hour Service in support of their respective Airbus fleet.

Air Tanzania’s A220-300 fleet and Uganda Airline’s Airbus A330-800neo fleet will benefit from comprehensive material services including on-site-stock, access to Airbus’ spares pools and components engineering and repair services around the world.

Airbus will also guarantee spare parts availability, generating value through increased fleet availability and operating maintenance costs savings.

Their selections mark the first African customers for Airbus’ FHS on two new aircraft types, the A220 and the A330. They also increase Airbus’ FHS footprint in the African continent.

Day 4

Boeing, Fahari Innovation Hub Partnership

Kenya Airways’ Fahari Innovation hub got a boost as Boeing announced a partnership to support the platform that brings together entrepreneurs and innovators to help accelerate the development of the aviation industry and tackle some of its current and future challenges.

We are very proud of our partnership with Kenya Airways to support their new startup hub. We share a common objective to discover and empower new talent that will accelerate the growth of our industry.

The industry has been through a tough two years, but it is resilient and promises to become even more competitive and complex.

We have the opportunity to enable new entrants that think outside of our norm and consider new approaches to our business, ” said Kuljit Ghata-Aura, president of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

Focused on being an epicenter for strategic innovation management, the center will offer opportunities for co-creation, collaboration, networking, research, and learning.

It aims to stimulate innovation by providing expertise, resources, services, mediation, and support to other business functions and partner organizations.

Group CEO and MD, Kenya Airways, Allan Kilavuka said, “While the pandemic came with extreme challenges for the aviation industry, it also brought along opportunities for reflection initiatives, one of them being the Fahari Innovation Hub.

This not only enabled the presentation of new world class ideas that became part of the solutions to the challenges we faced but also brought together partners with whom we have worked together across the value chain in a bid to revive operations.”


By Victor Shalton Odhiambo

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