Dubai Airshow 2013: The world awaits

We speak to Sharief Fahmy, CEO of the Dubai Airshow organisers.
Sharief Fahmy.
Sharief Fahmy.

We speak to Sharief Fahmy, CEO of Dubai Airshow organisers F&E Aerospace, about its new home at Dubai World Central and what we can expect from this year's event

With a purpose-built new home at Dubai World Central and a predicted record attendance of 60,000 trade visitors, this year’s Dubai Airshow promises to be the biggest and best yet. 

The introduction of Skyview, where families and enthusiasts can enjoy a world-class flying display, and more than 200 first-time exhibitors will mark the start of a new era for the Dubai Airshow.

As excitement has grown in the run-up to the November 17-21 spectacle, there is one man in particular who can’t wait for the ribbon to be cut to mark the start of the 13th edition of the Airshow.

That man is Sharief Fahmy, CEO of F&E Aerospace, the organisers of the Dubai Airshow. Having joined the company on June 1, this will be the first Airshow in his new role at F&E Aerospace – but Fahmy is no stranger to the Airshow as he formerly attended as a customer.

Having experienced the Airshow from the customer side, Fahmy says that it has helped give him a different perspective in his new position. “I joined this team as a customer initially,” said Fahmy.

“I participated in the Dubai Airshow in 2009 and 2011 so I can look at it from a customer’s perspective. To have joined this team and to see how much dedication goes into organising the Airshow it is eye-opening.

“What I am hoping to do is to continue to grow the Airshow.

“I hope to always have a good listening ear and listen to what the customer is asking for – and ultimately build a venue that will allow for the Airshow to grow.”

Making the move to the facilities at Dubai World Central has been the major talking point in the run-up. The new facilities, purpose-built in DWC’s Aviation District, will include the exhibition site, larger static display, ample parking and improved catering facilities. So what does the move mean for the organisers of the Airshow and how big a milestone is it?

“The move to DWC is huge,” said Fahmy. “We have built a brand new venue at a brand new location and this is something that has been in the works for quite some time. To finally be here and ready to deliver, it is absolutely amazing.

Because it is purpose-built we have been able to combine three different exhibition halls all into one big hall. The new venue is twice the size of the old venue from an exhibition display perspective and we have been able to focus on things that we were unable to do in the past.

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“It’s going to offer a bigger display of aircraft and better aerobatics manoeuvring because we are not as congested with the traffic from Dubai International Airport. We are going to have more than 5000 available parking spots, almost four times the amount of parking that we had in the old venue. That was a big problem in the past.”

DWC’s new passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International Airport opened its doors on October 27 after welcoming the arrival of the first commercial flight, Wizz Air W6 2497 from Budapest, Hungary.

DWC will eventually become the world’s largest airport with a capacity of 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo per year.

Al Maktoum International is DWC’s centrepiece, but the plans to have seven other districts – logistics, aviation, humanitarian, residential, commercial, leisure, exhibition and commercial – on the 140km2 site means that DWC is a location in itself. The scale and potential of DWC will, according to Fahmy, give the Airshow a new lease of life.

“We are really excited about the location,” he said. “DWC is the vision of the future. Nowhere else in the world have they opened up an airshow venue at a brand new airport. This is a first in so many ways and as organisers we are trying to think of every single possible thing to make sure it runs smoothly and that it gets people excited and motivated. Not just for this iteration of the Airshow but for 2015, 2017 and beyond.

“Even more so we are extremely excited about the whole aerotropolis. We have seen here in Dubai the tallest building in the world and the Palm Jumeirah, so this is no different. It is the UAE and Dubai setting the standard. Even though it is only one runway right now we are seeing airlines grab hold. All roads lead to Dubai World Central.”

The last edition of the Airshow in 2011 attracted an attendance 56,548 total trade visitors – an increase of 7% from 2009. With 60,000 predicted for this year, the move to DWC has cemented the industry’s interest in Dubai and has also encouraged a number of new companies to exhibit for the first time.

“In 2011 there was a 7% increase from 2009,” he said. “That increase is significant because it came at a time when the world was in recession.

“It is predicted that we will go over 60,000 attendees because we are expecting a healthy 11-15% growth from 2011. Early indications are pointing to that.

“Our floorplan for the exhibitions halls are 97% sold out. We are at a point where we are going to have to turn some people down or give them smaller options because the venue is completely packed. That’s significant because it is a brand new venue. We have had our partners from previous airshows come in strong, but what is even more exciting is that there is a peak in new companies and business. We have 210 new companies that have signed up.”

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He added: “In Paris we had people talking to us about 2015’s event. Even beyond this particular Airshow we are excited about 2015 and 2017 coming up. We are also expecting more than the 1000 mark when it comes to exhibitors in the hall. It used to be three different halls and now it is one big hall. We are setting it up in a way where it is going to be interactive and easy to access.”

Not only will visitors be introduced to the new facilities at DWC, but also the launch of Skyview for families and children. Skyview will allow families and enthusiasts to watch world-class flying displays from the neighbouring area to the Airshow.

Fahmy said: “We have had amazing aircraft in the past, so we thought hard and said ‘let’s build a separate venue’. It is called Skyview and we have built a grandstand that can hold 4000-6000 people. It is a family event. So from Monday to Thursday [November 18-21] from 12noon-6pm every day the park will be open. There will be aviation-themed activities that will take place. Because we are not restricted by the airspace, the display is going to be three hours continuous.

“Right now we have confirmations from the Red Arrows and we are working with some partner nations. We are expecting 14,000 for the entire week to attend Skyview.”

In past editions of the Airshow the order book has been staggering and in 2011 it reached US$63.3 billion. With a strong order book expected in 2013 and initiatives such as Futures Day, there will be some familiarity for visitors and exhibitors will be able to conduct their business as usual.

Fahmy added: “We believe we are going to have a very healthy order book given the current trends and confident that we will match or maybe beat the order book from 2011.

“For Futures Day we have partnered with the Higher College of Technology and looking at bringing 600 students to the last day. We have sponsors including BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin.

“Dubai Airshow is a B2B event and we are sensitive that we don’t take away from people coming in to do their business deals. So opening up the Airshow to the students on the last day really is with the blessing of the industry.

“These are international students that are coming from all over the world to Dubai because they see the opportunity the aviation community can provide. If you are here [in the UAE] already you only minutes away from one of the biggest events in your back yard.”

With the future professionals attending, new initiatives and the spike in exhibitors, the future is looking bright for the Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central.

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Sharief Fahmy
Title: CEO of F&E Aerospace, organisers of The Dubai Airshow.
Date started at F&E Aerospace: June 1, 2013.
Career background: Fahmy completed a distinguished 23-year career in the United States Air Force (USAF) as a Lieutenant Colonel (retired). He most recently served for five years at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi as an international regional area strategist. In this role, he led the US government to their successful participation in the last two editions of the Dubai Airshow.
In quotes: “We are really excited about the location. DWC is the vision of the future. To finally be here and ready to deliver, it is amazing.”

Dubai Airshow
Location: Dubai World Central.
2013 dates: November 17-21, 2013.
Opening hours: Sunday, November 17 from 10am-5.30pm; November 18-21 from 9.30am-5.30pm.
Predicted number of trade visitors: 60,000.
Predicted exhibitor numbers: 1000.
Number of first-time exhibitors in 2013: 210.
Did you know? This year’s event is the 13th edition of the Dubai Airshow.

Future dates:
• 2015: November 8-12
• 2017: November 12-16
• 2019: November 17-21


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