Shaikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Shaikh Dhiyab Bin Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, accompanied by the officials of Abu Dhabi Airports Company during their tour after inaugurating the Abu Dhabi Air Expo 2018 at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Air Expo got underway on Monday at Al Bateen Airport with global aircraft manufacturing companies displaying their latest models of business jets with an eye on the Middle East market.

Dozens of aircraft — from ultra-light to heavy business jets — are on display at the three-day event which was inaugurated by Shaikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court.

Dassault aviation top executive chief says they see a huge potential for growth in the business jets segment in the Middle East despite low oil prices and shrinking budgets.

The French aircraft manufacturer is showcasing its new flagship business jet, the ultra long-range Falcon 8X.

“The market is having [a] huge potential for the business jets because [the] businessman in the Middle East likes to travel more and wants to go from one country to the other and also go far away. In the UAE, compared to the US and Europe, there is really a capacity for growth,” Renaud Cloatre, regional sales and marketing director for Dassault Aviation, told Gulf News in an interview.

The company’s business jet fleet in the Middle East has nearly doubled to almost 80 aircraft in the past decade, with roughly half of them operating in Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone. Customers range from wealthy families to rich businessmen.

Globally, over 2,500 jets have been delivered.

“We’ve been successful in almost all the countries in the GCC but Saudi Arabia and UAE have been the best markets.”

When asked whether there has been an impact due to the drop in oil prices and shrinking budgets in the region, Cloatre said “it slowed down the growth of the order but the fleet kept growing due to long-term vision and [the] strong finance capacity of people” to buy the aircraft.

“Our customers include a mix of wealthy families, business leaders and companies. We are optimistic about our growth in the region.”

He, however, added that there has been a slowdown in the number of first-time buyers due to prevailing economic conditions in the region.

Speaking on the Falcon 8X, he said it is a longer aircraft with more fuel capacity and featuring the latest technology in avionics.

“The aircraft is capable [of] going anywhere and any place in the world — from small airports to higher airports. It was handed over in late 2016 and several of them are already flying in the Gulf region.”

Apart from the Falcon 8X, there are other aircraft attracting the attention of visitors at Al Bateen Airport.

US-based Gulfstream is showcasing its G500 aircraft for the first time in the Middle East and Africa.

There are also local companies like Abu Dhabi Aviation, Falcon Aviation Services and Royal Jet, which are taking part in the event. About 18,000 people are expected to attend the event, which ends on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Falcon Aviation, a UAE-based company specialising in business aviation services, charter and aircraft management, announced that it has obtained General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) approval to start Bombardier Q400 base maintenance at its hangar at Al Bateen airport.

“We are delighted to have this accreditation to carry out base maintenance and provide MRO on the Q400NGs,” said Captain Raman Oberoi, Falcon Aviation chief operating officer.

Falcon Aviation’s fixed-wing and rotary wing MRO at Bateen Airport already holds capabilities for Embraer and Gulfstream Business Jets, the Pilatus PC-12, Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Bell Helicopters.