Last week, FINN was at Bahrain International Airshow – the region’s fastest-growing show. Our wrap gives you the highlights from the event, including the notable sales, orders and news, as well as analysis from the FINN team and experts across the industry.

Dignitaries from all over the world joined Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamed Al Khalifa for the official opening. With Saudi Arabia just a short drive away, it was no wonder that the show drew a lot of interest from the neighbours across a causeway.

Boutique carrier SaudiGulf signed for 10 firm and 10 options on a mix of Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft. While waiting for delivery, the Damman-based airline will be leasing a further 20 new aircraft to meet its growth demands.

With $2.1  billion (£1.63 billion) in value for the airframes and a further $1 billion (£0.78 billion) for the engines, this turned out to be the biggest single order in the show’s history.

Military deals

On the military front, Bahrain announced the purchase of 12 attack helicopters from Bell. The deal for the AH-1 Zulu aircraft was estimated at over $900 million (£699 million). These new Vipers will supplement the Cobras already in service with the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF).

The Bahrain Air Force also took delivery of the first of its C130J aircraft from the modification engineering company, Marshalls. The transfer from the UK’s RAF is the world’s first transfer of a ‘dash J’ variant.

Saudi’s oil and gas giant, Saudi Aramco, confirmed its $700 million (£544 million)  deal with Leonardo for AW139 helicopters. This also showed the value of the type, which is already performing well in search-and-rescue operations.

The region’s defence spending has been on the up and there was a whole host of impressive flying displays to allow the OEMs to strut their stuff. The F-35 made its debut at the show with a roaring fly-past and the Russian Knights wowed the crowds as they put their Sukhoi- Su-27 Flankers through their paces.

But for the Bahrain defence force, all eyes were on the F-16s. Bahrain is the launch customer of the latest Block 70 type and will be taking 16.

New talent

Bahrain has been taking its responsibilities for inspiring youth to get interested in aviation seriously, with a special families area at the show. There is plenty to be proud of.

A first at the show, local airline Texel Air showed the world’s first Flexi-Combo on a 737-700 platform. The aircraft can carry rock bands, racehorses and key equipment in the cargo area, while at the back of the aircraft there are options for business or economy seating for the teams accompanying the valuable cargo.

Business aviation was well represented at the event. The importance of business aviation for Bahrain was reinforced when the government signed a real estate deal for a new business aviation terminal at what is currently the Civil Aviation Authority offices. It should be operational by 2020, and Bahrain Airport Company also announced plans for a new cargo area, while the government also signed an upgrade deal to take the international airport to a  Cat 3 status.

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