Dubai Air Show opens to industry on the mend amid COVID-19
Dubai's biennial Air Show opened on Sunday to a world still reeling from the pandemic and an aviation industry hard-hit by the coronavirus, but on the mend.
Boeing and Airbus have traditionally been the stars of the aviation trade show, competing for multibillion-dollar Gulf-based airline purchases and hammering out final details minutes before back-to-back press conferences.
This year, however, the five-day exhibition is expected to be more muted than in the past due to the subdued state of flying and travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather, the air show's first day drew eyes toward defense and military hardware from countries like Russia and Israel.
The day's blockbuster commercial deal by Airbus was a sale of 255 new aircraft to Indigo Partners' various low-cost carriers.
The agreement sees budget carriers Wizz Air purchase 102 new planes, US Frontier with 91, Mexico's Volaris with 39 and South American JetSmart with 23. The package includes a mix of A321neo and A321XLR aircraft. At Airbus' pre-pandemic list prices, the order would clock in at well above US$30 billion. The company declined to provide any details on the sale price.
Airbus also secured an order for two additional A330 aerial refueling aircraft with the United Arab Emirates' Air Force, bringing to five the country's Airbus multirole tanker transport fleet.
The star on the tarmac outside the exhibition hall was Russia's Checkmate fighter jet. The jet, with a baseline US$35 million price tag, is cheaper than the US F-35, which the UAE has been trying to acquire since formally recognizing Israel last year in a deal brokered by the Trump administration. That sale has slowed under US President Joe Biden.
In a dramatic promotional video, the Checkmate soared through burnt orange skies, blasting away targets in the desert as music blared in the background and a thundering voiceover rattled off the plane's features.
"The idea was born as we used all the experience that Russia got during its Syria operations and many of the features of the aircraft came from realistic situations that we experienced," said United Aircraft Corporation CEO Yuri Slyusar.