The Dubai Air Show 2013 opened on Sunday to a barrage of orders from local airlines for hundreds of Boeing and Airbus jets, setting a record for the most orders at an airshow, at $192.3 billion. And that was just at the end of the first day, according to the show's organizers.
Among the many orders announced, the Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) reaped the biggest single order ever in its history, a monster 150-airplane deal from hometown Emirates Airline that may be worth as much as $45 billion. Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company NV (EPA:EAD) also took home hundreds of commitments including an order for 50 A380s, also from Emirates, giving a much-needed boost to the largest passenger airplane ever made.
The A380 was also expected in the skies over the Dubai World Central Airport, but was forced to remain on the ground like all other planes on display at the show, when authorities decided to cancel the day's flight program after a single exhibition (by the Emirati Air Force aerobatic team, Al Fursan). Strong winds gusting at more than 50 mph picked up sand from the surrounding desert, creating a near-sandstorm that was deemed too unsafe to fly in.
Journalists and photographers who had assembled next to the runway to see, among others, the cream of U.S. warplanes including the Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) F-22 Raptor stealth fighter and the Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber were forced instead to go for a tour of the stationary aircraft. The flight program may resume tomorrow, weather permitting; the event runs until Thursday.
Here is a sample of what was on exhibition Sunday afternoon at the Dubai Air Show, beginning with one of the stars.
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Alongside the big ones -- there were also Boeing 737s and 787s and Airbus A320s -- manufacturers brought a slew of business jets. Private jet sales have ticked up after the world financial crisis hurt companies like U.S.-based Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a unit of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), and Canada's Bombardier Aerospace, a division of Bombardier Inc. (TSE:BBD.A), the two largest competitors in the industry. Both had their most recent offerings on display.
What do these sleek beauties look like on the inside? The 650 was being shown to a potential customer, so it was largely off-limits. The Gulfstream people on site would not say who the customer was, when asked, but they agreed to a few snapshots.
Not everything on the tarmac at Dubai World Central is this posh. There is a large contingent of military aircraft on display, too, and the priority there isn't comfort but practicality. Seating like this is the most efficient way of putting troops and gear inside a Boeing CH-47F Chinook of the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
But there was still a chance to peek inside a private jet, a Bombardier Challenger 605. It's one of the smaller offerings among top-end bizjets, but it still looks quite luxurious.
Finally, a chat with a young pilot from Flydubai, a low-cost airline that announced an order for up to 111 Boeing 737s on Sunday, led to sitting in the captain's chair for a while, looking through the heads-up display that shows, during flight, speed, altitude and other critical data.