x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Military Airbus shows off its many roles

At Dubai Airshow, Airbus demonstrates new military plane that can carry cargo as well as fly fast.

The Dubai Airshow drew a large crowd and most visitors were pleased about the extra space at the Dubai World Central, but some said they had difficulty getting around the new venue. Antonie Robertson / The National
The Dubai Airshow drew a large crowd and most visitors were pleased about the extra space at the Dubai World Central, but some said they had difficulty getting around the new venue. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // A new Airbus military aircraft was taken for a 50-minute pass over the emirate as part of the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

Due to be fully operational in six months, the A400M is intended for use in missions including the transport of cargo, passengers, airdrops, paratroopers and refuelling.

“Flying the aircraft is great,” said Michel Gagneux, the plane’s French pilot who has been flying for 30 years.

“It is a marvellous aircraft. It’s very agile and it’s like a racer, so it’s not a fighter nor a transporter aircraft, it’s in the middle.”

Airbus has just delivered the first two of these planes to the French air force, while Turkey is due to receive one next week.

The company will build another 10 next year and 21 in 2015. France, the UK and Germany will each take possession of one next year, and four will go to Malaysia in 2015.

The UAE could be next on the list as Airbus sees the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia as the regions with the most potential.

“We had some very promising discussions with several countries in the region and the show has been very encouraging so far,” an Airbus spokesman said.

“We’re confident that, in due course, this will be a very productive part of the world for us.”

The aircraft is useful because it combines different types of operations.

“Typically, if you’re in the air force, you have a difficult choice,” the spokesman said.

“If you wanted to fly long distances with very large loads, you had to buy very expensive jet aircraft which cost a lot to operate and a lot of the times, you don’t need it.

“If you wanted to fly with smaller loads off short runways for tactical reasons, then you have to buy a different aeroplane. The unique thing about it [the A400M] is that it will do both.”

The plane flies almost as fast as a jet, but can land on a very short sand or dirt runway, near a battle field or disaster site.

“There’s no other aircraft that can do that,” the spokesman said.

The plane was one of many on display throughout the show, attended by thousands at Dubai World Central. The venue made it easier to watch the dynamic air shows.

“I visited the airshow every time since 2009 and I think the location makes a big difference now because it’s much bigger in size,” said Raseem Abdulrahman, from India.

“In terms of the dynamic airshows, there wasn’t a lot of time dedicated to them in the previous venue because there were operational aircraft at the Dubai airport, so there were a lot constraints in the timings.

“Here, you have almost three hours in the afternoons for shows.”

Trevor Gwaltney, 15, from America, came to view the planes on display.

“My father works for a company that manufactures and supplies weapons for aeroplanes,” he said. “I came here to look at the crazy planes and I think it’s a really good airshow.”

Sunil De Silva, an aircraft engineer at Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Services, said he was on the lookout for planes and customers.

“We work in the repairs of aircraft engines, and we visit the airshow every two years,” Mr De Silva said.

But some found the current venue to be less convenient.

“Last time was better because the location of the venue now is too far compared to the other venue,” said Konstantine Japaridze, a Georgian engineer for an aircraft maker.

“I feel it’s smaller than before. In summer, I went to the Paris Airshow and I thought Dubai’s would be better but I’m a bit disappointed.”

Mohammad Javed, from Chabok Aviation, which supplies aircraft parts and hardware, said the exhibition hall felt more cramped than previous years.

“But a lot of people have visited the show which is great,” Mr Javed said. “We came here to introduce our core functions to customers and find new opportunities among visitors.”

The show concludes on Thursday.

cmalek@thenational.ae