[Avionics Today 07-13-2015] The Middle East region is one of the biggest growth areas in commercial aviation today, and in terms of airlines’ Research and Development (R&D) activity, Boeing is one of the industry's strongest players in the area. Avionics Magazine recently caught up with newly appointed Boeing Middle East President Bernie Dunn, who says the region is a strong area of growth for the U.S. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
Boeing's new Middle East President Bernie Dunn. Photo: Boeing.
Dunn took over as the president of Boeing Middle East in May, and will be responsible for the manufacturer's growth, productivity, R&D, and government affairs in the region going forward. Boeing's most recent forecast projects a $640 billion market demand for 2,950 new commercial aircraft for operators based in the region. Dunn said that despite the massive amount of spending on Boeing aircraft at the 2013 Dubai Airshow, the company still has huge growth potential in the region.
"Over the past 18 months, there have been 214 total orders from the Middle East, while we delivered 74. Boeing has a current backlog of 556 airplanes in the Middle East including the 777, 777X, 787, 737 and 737 MAX models," he said. "We remain confident of our forecast for the Middle East. The aviation industry in the region is growing rapidly with many of the airlines undergoing fleet expansion and renewal. Additionally, aviation infrastructure in the Middle East continues to show strong development with the expansion of existing locations across the region, as well as the creation of new global hub airports in the [Gulf Cooperation Council] GCC."
The Boeing 787 especially has been popular in the region, with both Saudi Arabian Airlines and Oman Air scheduled to take delivery of their first Dreamliners later this year. And despite Qatar Airways’ big announcement late last year becoming the Airbus A350 XWB launch customer, the airline is also operating 787s on long-haul routes, as is Etihad Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines.
Airlines in the Middle Eastern region have also been global leaders in terms of their In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) offerings for passengers, which Dunn says Boeing has also been closely monitoring. For example, Emirates was awarded the 2015 Skytrax World Airlines award — which polls 18 million business and leisure travelers across 160 countries — for best in-flight entertainment for its “ice Digital Widescreen” entertainment system. In January, Qatar Airways confirmed its intent to add Inmarsat's Global Xpress Ka-band service to its Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s. And in late 2014, Etihad achieved an IFEC milestone by featuring mobile and Internet connectivity from Panasonic across its entire 777 fleet.
"We have a long relationship with the region’s airlines, and we are very aware that in-flight entertainment and connectivity provide competitive advantages to carriers," said Dunn. "As the original equipment manufacturer, our engineers’ access to Boeing’s fleet designs provide them with the expertise to integrate complex, bespoke systems throughout our products. With our ability to manage the pre- and post-installation process, Boeing engages with suppliers to ensure the ideal solution for airlines."
The need for Air Traffic Management (ATM) modernization will come along with the growth of commercial airline fleets in the region and the projected demand for just under 3,000 new aircraft, in order to cope with the increasing airspace congestion. Dunn said Boeing is a participant in the Middle East ATM Enhancement Program (MAEP). During a presentation to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in April, MAEP Board Chairman Ahmed Al Jallaf confirmed the establishment of the MAEP as a regional platform to back a collaborative approach toward implementing air navigation projects in support of the "Mid Air Navigation Strategy" between 2016 and 2028.
Dunn said from a research and development perspective, Boeing and the other aviation stakeholders managing MAEP will take notes from the world's current two largest ongoing ATM initiatives, Europe's Single European Sky and the U.S. NextGen programs.
"Efficient air traffic management certainly has the potential to have a positive impact on commercial aviation and economies. With focused energy and funding, improvements and modernization on the current system will be beneficial," said Dunn. "Such improvements need wide-ranging collaboration. Enhanced automation and data sharing between air navigation service providers, airports and airlines will offer more opportunities for collaborative decision making and, ultimately, that process is happening in Europe and the United States.
“With the learnings from those regions, an enhanced air traffic management program could provide a real boon for the Middle East’s aviation industry as it continues to grow and evolve."