The Abu Dhabi Air Expo could herald the start of new era in general aviation for the United Arab Emirates.
Yousif Hassan Al Hammadi, the general manager of Al Bateen and chairman of the organising committee of the show, said that there are likely to be regulatory changes in the UAE that will lead to greater opportunities for general aviation.
With the GCAA taking an active role in this week’s show, those announcements could come as early as this week.
And the timing couldn’t be better for Al Hammadi.
Tomorrow, up to 80 representatives from the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilots’ Associations, including the AOPA leadership from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, will be at a special meeting at the Gulf Centre for Aviation Studies at Al Bateen where Al Hammadi, the chairman of UAE AOPA, said they will be sharing knowledge and discussing a variety of topics, including air space regulations, aerial non-commercial operations, certification and maintenance issues, as well as pilot licensing.
A focus on the GA industry could also support a bid by the UAE to host the 2015 World Air Games. This is the international air sports event organised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (International Aeronautical Federation - FAI), which is aviation’s answer to the Olympic Games and includes events such as parachuting and aerobatics.
“This is all part of us wanting to develop a passion for aviation among young people in the UAE,” Al Hammadi said.
“We want to open the skies for general aviation but it is hard. The airspace in the region is very congested. The growth of civil aircraft movements has been amazing. But there is a recognition that there is also growing needs for other flying activities.
“We hosted the world parachuting championships in December and we are seeing ballooning and paragliding developing. We need this show to help educate people about general aviation.”
Al Hammadi said he hoped there would also be an increase in the numbers of light sports aircraft. Here at Air Expo there are more aircraft on display. “We have taken up 25% more space on the apron,” he confirmed.
Ultimately, he said he hoped there would be opportunities for PPL training. “There is commercial training at Al Ain and with activities there – Strata building aerostructures and airline growth – there is a real need to attract our younger generation to see how attractive aviation is as a career.”
The show is also giving visitors the chance to see the development under way by Al Bateen owners Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC). The strategy to move Al Bateen from its role as a military airport to the region’s only dedicated executive airport is beginning to pay off.
As well as an increase in business aviation traffic, Al Bateen is also seeing a rise in the number of commercial flights following the success of Rotana Jet’s domestic services.
“We have airports on Sir Bani Yas and Delma islands. There is growing tourism with a lot of interest from the local market, and Delma has more than 4,000 people living on the island, so there is great potential there,” Al Hammadi said.
And, as the Aero Expo opens today, Al Hammadi is already looking forward.
“Exhibitors and visitors loved the show last year. We have grown this year and I think even more people will recognise the importance of general aviation for future shows.”