The Inspire Middle East team is on the ground at the Abu Dhabi Air Expo to discover the latest trends in private jets, and find out how the capital is realizing its ambitions to become a hub for business plane travel in the region.
The show also lifts the lid on an aerospace plant in Al Ain to reveal how Emirati women are leading the charge in the making of plane components for industry giants like Boeing and Airbus.
Plus, with the Dubai International Boat show in full swing, we step on board one of its priciest vessels and find out what extras a multi-million-dollar budget will buy you.
Altitude with attitude: A home at 40,000ft.
Market research suggests that the global private plane market could be worth more than $33 billion by 2020, and customers pacing orders at the Abu Dhabi Air Expo are paying skywards of $4.5 million for their luxury jets. For that hefty price tag – they’re not just buying privacy in the air, they’re buying time.
“We see the chairmen and the top executives of companies flying in these machines. Basically, to make them more productive when they travel,” says Claudio Camelier, Vice President of Sales, Embraer Middle East, and Asia Pacific.
“And the market is certainly growing.”
At one end of Embraer’s scale, there are ‘modest’ four-seaters suited to business meetings at 40,000 ft. – and at the very top end there are aircrafts which could comfortably sleep a VIP family of up to ten – given their five cabin zones, queen size beds, fine dining and on-board showers. And a plane of this kind could be yours - with bells and whistles – for around $55 million.
“You can pick and choose between very exclusive leathers and veneers, stone flooring in the kitchen and bathroom area of the airplane,” adds Camelier.
“It’s a home away from home. All of the conveniences that you’d have in a top end hotel.”
Trends in souped-up executive jets include high-speed internet connectivity, top entertainment systems and crystal-clear satellite phone lines. Which is handy if you need to call ahead to reserve a hangar spot at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport. It's the MENA region’s only dedicated private jet base with capacity for 50 planes and it was also the 60,000 square metre venue for this year’s Air Expo.
The airport is the lynchpin in the capital’s master plan to become the number one destination for regional private jet owners to park their planes.
Some analysts predict that the market in the Middle East could triple in the next 10 years and Abu Dhabi’s General Manager of Aviation Airports, Nasser Juma, thinks the figure is achievable.
“I completely agree,” he says, “Otherwise you wouldn’t see the four major manufacturers come all the way to the Air Expo and start exhibiting like they are.”
And if you’re wondering whether private jets will forever be the reserve of the super-rich and celebrities, then think again.
“Fortunately, now the concept has changed. New players are entering the market and new beneficiaries have come into this business. We’re seeing private people increasingly travelling on private jets which they don’t own them, they just charter them. It’s very simple, say if 20 people, for example, want to fly to a show or a meeting abroad – what they need to do is calculate the ticket cost for a first-class flight. From that, they’ll be able to make out whether the cost is reasonable or not.” adds Juma.
Emirati Women in Aerospace: Building Planes and Breaking Down Barriers.
Next time you board a commercial plane to jet off to somewhere exotic, take a moment to look at the tail fin or spoiler of your Boeing or Airbus jumbo. For there’s every chance the components were made right here in the UAE by a dedicated workforce of female Emiratis in Al Ain.
In the traditionally male-dominated sector of aerospace engineering women have taken matters into their own hands at a company called Strata.
They’re assembling and manufacturing vital parts for industry titans like Boeing and Airbus and the Emirati nationals are doing it en masse. Meaning that of the 700 employees they make up 51% workforce and 86% of them are female.
“To be part of this industry, in knowing that the components my team and I manufacture with our own bare hands, are flying around the globe and making a difference in people’s lives makes me so proud,” says Junior Supervisor Meera Al Shamsi.
Aircraft rudders and wing flaps have for decades been made in cities like Toulouse, and Seattle and that’s why the UAE has taken the industry somewhat by surprise.
For on a spot which used to be just sand dunes less than ten years ago there now sits Strata’s gleaming production HQ.
The company has provided a shot in the arm to the local economy – and helped with the UAE’s wider diversification plans - delivering a record number of more than 9,700 parts last year - resulting in sales of more than $136 million.
“We have over 2,500 aircrafts that carry parts made in Strata, or from Strata - which is quite significant,” says Saif Al Dahbashi, the Head of Production at Strata.
“Tomorrow we want to do a lot more with the Boeing program that we already make parts for and aircrafts such as the A350, Airbus A350 Dash 900 and Dash 1000.”
Strata’s masterplan is for Al Ain to become a world-class aerospace manufacturing hub by 2030, and they’re arguably off to a flying start.
However, the question now is whether the UAE has the adequate infrastructure in place to cope with higher demand from global players?
“The industry is still new to the region and the local supply chain is going to need to take its course to achieve a certain level of existence in the UAE,” says Al Dahbashi.
Keeping Strata’s strategy on course and giving its ambitions full throttle in the years to come will continue to be its young Emirati female workforce. And their dedication, passion and acquired skills for the highly technical business of aerospace manufacturing is plain for all to see.
Plain sailing: Superyachts draw the big spenders to the Dubai International Boat Show
Welcome to the world of the top one percent - where if you have a million dollars or more to spare - this is where you go shopping.
Superyachts are the epitome of luxury living on water and the Dubai International Boat Show this year spotlights the latest trends and developments in the sector.
The global yachting industry is set to top $3 trillion by 2030 and the UAE is keen to keep increasing its market share.
With 450 boats exhibited by an estimated 850 global companies, the annual event aims to rake in money from investors.
And despite the vessels on display being valued at more than $400 million, believe it or not, Dubai's most popular boat show is not all about boats. It's an opportunity for the UAE to market itself as a leading harbourside destination and a luxury cruising hub.
Also given the time to shine this year at the show were local manufacturers like Gulf Craft and their $16.5 million mooring of aquatic real estate.
At 140ft long - that's twice the length of a cricket pitch - the company's nine-bedroom superyacht represents what buyers supposedly want today.
And no client request is too extreme – if the price is right. From tables descending from ceilings and even a landscaped garden on deck – it would appear that high-rolling clients can have just about anything that floats their boat.