(King Hamad seen leaving the Gulf Air pavilion following the official opening of the Bahrain Air Show 2012)
Following the official opening of the Bahrain Air Show 2012 by His Majesty King Hamad, and his official visit to each and every exhibitors chalet, did the show go on the road or rather into the skies, with a variety of aerial displays by single or multiple military aircraft, one of the days highlights being the fly past of a Gulf Air A330 painted in the livery of Formula 1, accompanied by 8 Bahraini fighter aircraft.
(Birds galore at BIAS 2012)
Gulf Airs Chief Executive Samer Majali and his team of top executives, from Commercial to Operations, were all at hand to interact with invited guests and the media and had plenty to tell about their vision for Gulf Air, to grow and to become a source of national pride for the Kingdom of Bahrain. More on that story in coming weeks.
(A Gulf Air A320, in new livery and with a new interior, showcasing the airlines new vision for comfort in the sky)
The leading manufacturers had lined up their latest models and only Boeing missed the opportunity to showcase the B787 here, instead apparently opting to fly her to Singapore in mid February for their air show, a fact loudly bemoaned and lamented by many of the visitors who had hoped the see the Dreamliner in Bahrain especially considering that Gulf Air has over 20 of those birds on order to both grow the fleet and replace older and less fuel efficient aircraft. On show though were the 737NGs, the B767 and notably a B777 with a new cabin layout brought over by Qatar Airways from neighbouring Doha.
Airbus tried to showcase the A380, but as the Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum did arrive on it from Dubai, and was leaving with it a few hours later again, entrance to the plane was prohibited and the guests could only see the outside of it, and from a secure distance, to the lasting disappointment of many who had hoped to at least walk through this giant of the skies. Accessible though were A320 series aircraft as well as A330 aircraft.
Bombardiers pavilion was overrun, literally, by everybody wanting to see their mock up of the CSeries plane, cockpit and cabin, besides their real aircraft on display like the Global Challenger while Sukhoi had brought in their brand new SuperJet SSJ100 the company hopes to sell to customers in the region, and Bahrain Air has reportedly, or so the word was out yesterday afternoon, been getting ready to sign up for between 3 to 5 of these aircraft types. In the helicopter category Sikorsky showed off their S76C while competitor Bell showed off their AH1 Cobra, with both the Bahrain and US forces also displaying active helis of various other makes, including the famous Blackhawk.
Notably though did the Gulf Aviation Academy showcase their latest simulators for the Embraers 170 and 190, besides which they also operate one for the A320, a second one has according to their staff been ordered, and a combined A330/340 simulator, which when a new version for the A330 arrives will be dedicated to the A340 only.
GAAs CEO Tim Shattock was at hand to explain that in particular the Embraer simulators could also be used for the training of pilots from East African airlines now flying Embraer jets. This was evidence that it was not only aircraft manufacturers exhibiting but also related services like aviation training, logistics and system providers and a wide range of other closely interlinked suppliers.
(Painting the skies over the Sakhir Air Base)
Highlights of the day however, for the invited guests and VIPs but also for tens of thousands of Bahrainis who had come to see the show, from the main area but also from the hills behind the Sakhir Air Base, were the aerial displays and acrobatic flights performed by the masters of the skies, and some of the flying pushed the edge of what the aircrafts were capable of and what the pilots could endure in terms of G-forces during some of the most daring turns and acrobatics seen. It was in fact the Russian Knights, who rang the bell in the afternoon as the last and most stunning performance, including head on flights with the opposing aircraft, seemingly at the last moment, doing a perfectly executed roll while passing each other, getting out of danger.
The second day of the airshow, unfolding today, 20th of January, will allow more time for one on one interaction, press conferences and visits to other airlines and manufacturers, but leaving my two minders of Gulf Air behind, will not be easy, first as they dont like to lose sight of me, and to be honest, myself not wanting to lose sight of them either, not for too long anyway.
On this lighter note, more news at the end of day 2. Watch this space.