United Arab Emirates - Country Commercial Guide
Aerospace and Aviation
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The aerospace and aviation sectors offer many opportunities for U.S. exporters. The civil aviation sector is a vital contributor to the UAE’s economy and pre-pandemic, the industry supported nearly 800,000 jobs in 2019, contributing $47.4 billion to the economy, roughly 13.3% of the UAE’s GDP. While the pandemic severely affected the aviation sector, according to a new study released by global technology company Travelport, the UAE has recovered to 110% of its 2019 levels.

Airline and Airport Growth

The UAE has two flagship airlines, Dubai-based Emirates Airlines and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, as well as low cost carriers flydubai and Sharjah-based Air Arabia. Abu Dhabi also created two smaller budget airlines through joint ventures in 2019, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. The UAE has seven international airports including Dubai International Airport (DXB), one of the world’s largest and busiest international airports, Dubai World Central (DWC), and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

The UAE government invested heavily in airport development and expansion projects such as $8.1 billion in Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, $7.6 billion for the Dubai International Airport Expansion Phase 4, $6.8 billion for Abu Dhabi Airport development and expansion plans, and around $400 million in Sharjah’s International Airport terminal expansion. Airports are under pressure to reduce costs and delay large capital expenditures, leading to cancellations and delays in new projects. Airports in the UAE continue to leverage new technologies to enhance the passenger experience and their role as a gateway. 

In terms of aircraft fleets, according to Emirates Airlines, it operates 120 Airbus A380-800s, 124 Boeing 777-300ERs, 10 Boeing 777-200LRs, and SkyCargo division operates 11 Boeing 777 freighters as well.

According to Etihad Airways, it operates 79 aircraft:  39 Boeing 787, 7 Boeing 777, 19 Airbus A320, 5 Airbus 350, and 5 Boeing 777 freighters.  Air Arabia Airline operates 42 Airbus 320 aircrafts and flydubai operates 78 Boeing 737 aircrafts. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi operates 9 aircraft and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi operates 8 aircraft. Emirates and Etihad have been in discussions with Boeing and Airbus about deliveries of new aircraft and modifying orders to better align their fleet mix with anticipated demand.

Major Airports in the UAE:

Abu Dhabi International Airport

Dubai Airports

Sharjah International Airport

UAE Government Initiatives

UAE government initiatives and investment in the aerospace industry have driven robust demand for business partnerships and helped the UAE outpace other regional markets. These initiatives include the offset program, industrial clusters, university programs, etc.  Such initiatives boosted the signing of contracts for new manufacturing and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) projects in the UAE in support of the country’s long-term strategy for transformation into a knowledge-based economy.

Local Manufacturing

The UAE aims to establish itself as a hub for aerospace manufacturing and maintenance, repair, and overhaul.

In Abu Dhabi, the two largest players in the aviation and defense sectors are the EDGE Group and Mubadala Investment Company. Over the past few years, these groups have formed partnerships with international companies such as Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Rolls-Royce, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Piaggio Aerospace, among others.

Mubadala Aerospace, owned by Mubadala Investment Company, oversees the development of maintenance facilities for civilian and commercial aircraft, flight training, parts manufacturing, and research and development work. Mubadala and Boeing have signed four agreements in recent years for the supply of advanced composites.

Located in Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, Strata Manufacturing PJSC (Strata) is owned by Mubadala Investment Company. Strata was formed to forge partnerships with aircraft OEMs and incorporate leading-edge technology and best practice manufacturing. It has formed partnerships with major aircraft manufacturers such as EADS/Airbus (Tier 1 supplier), Finmeccanica/AleniaAeronautica, SABCA, and FACC. Strata is now a Tier 1 supplier to Boeing on major components used in empennage ribs for the Boeing 777, vertical fin ribs for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and composite empennage ribs for Boeing’s 777X aircraft.

Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, created jointly by Mubadala Aerospace and Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC), is a mix of public and private investment projects created as a dedicated aerospace and aviation cluster. This aerospace park spans 25 square kilometers and consists of projects, businesses, offices, and mixed-use residential zones, the majority of which are allocated specifically to the aerospace industry.

Sanad Aerotech and Turbine Services & Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiaries of Mubadala Investment Company, provides engine maintenance, repair, and overhaul services for aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and 787, Airbus A300, A320, A330, and other aircraft through technical support and partnership with OEMs including GE, Rolls Royce, Siemens, and IAE.

Global Aerospace Logistics LLC (GAL)  is a subsidiary of the EDGE Group in Abu Dhabi.  The company offers a range of aviation maintenance services for rotary-wing aircraft for integrated lifecycle solutions. Services include routine inspections, repairs, and aircraft system overhauling.

GAL Air Navigation Services (GANS) is certified by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the UAE’s national regulatory authority, as the only private Air Navigation Service provider in the country. The company has an ICAO and GCAA certified training facility where it provides extensive air traffic management training to local and international customers. 

Emirates Engine Maintenance Center (EMEC) in Dubai is the leading service provider for aircraft engine maintenance, repair, and overhaul. The company has been working closely with Engine Alliance (EA), GE Aviation, and Rolls-Royce to develop technology for engine maintenance.

Dubai National Air Travel Agency (DNATA), the ground handling and cargo services arm of the Emirates Group, has partnered with Global Jet Technic to provide line maintenance services at Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC) airports.

GE Aviation has operated its support center with Emirates Engineering since 2013. The company recently opened its own support center in Dubai South to provide maintenance and repair solutions for all GE and CFM engines on the Emirates fleet and other UAE carriers such as flydubai, Etihad Airways, and Air Arabia.

Engine Maintenance Centre | Emirates Engineering partnered with Engine Alliance (EA), a GE/P&W group, for repair and service of 90 GP7200 Airbus A380 engines on aircraft operated by Emirates. Rolls-Royce provided Trent 900 engines to Emirates Engineering to help with hands-on training before installation, including fan blade installation and component removal, etc.

 Other local companies include:

Leading Sub-Sectors

Ground Services – ground handling, catering, and fixed based operations (FBO):  Local airport authorities have partnered with companies to bring in the latest technological innovations for passenger attraction and satisfaction including duty free services, hospitality, ground handling, catering, and fixed based operations (FBO). New catering and FBO facilities will need to be developed to further expand ground handling and catering.

Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO): With 46 GCAA-registered MRO companies in the UAE, the country possesses excellent capability in aircraft MRO despite the challenging sandy, hot, and dry conditions. Eleven companies are working in Dubai in aircraft maintenance and repair and two in simulation manufacturing.

Infrastructure Development and Aircraft Hangar Services:  UAE airports are planning investments in infrastructure to accommodate increased fleets and airport expansion to grow capacity, and there is expected to be increased demand for airport hangar services as well as airport infrastructure development services.

Training and Development:  The Middle East region is short of skilled manpower. To keep up with the growing need across the aviation system value chain for pilots, crew, technical, mechanical, and operational manpower, there is a need for both academic and practical training centers and flight simulators. Based on current orders, it is estimated that the UAE alone would require around 22,000 pilots and crewmembers by 2033. 

3-D printing and Additive Manufacturing:  The UAE 3D printing market size has grown, and this is an area of opportunity given the UAE’s commitment to expanding local manufacturing.

Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs):  Dubai’s introduction of the ‘Sky Dome’ initiative in 2020 aims to develop an integrated system for drone transport services, airfreight, and logistics services by positioning Dubai as a center for the manufacturing of drones and smart transportation.


Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Please contact us for additional information regarding trade shows, U.S. pavilions, and export promotion services that may be available for U.S. companies.

Dubai Airshow

Date: November 13-17, 2023

Venue: Al Maktoum International Airport DWC, Dubai Airshow Site


Global Aerospace Summit

Date: 2024 – Date TBD

Venue: Abu Dhabi, UAE


The Unmanned System Exhibition - UMEX 2024

Date: January 22-25, 2024

Venue: Abu Dhabi, UAE


Abu Dhabi Air Expo

Date: March 2024

Venue: Al Bateen Executive Airport, Abu Dhabi, UAE


MRO Middle East

Date: March 5-6, 2024

Venue: Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE


Aircraft Interiors Middle East

Date: March 5-6, 2024

Venue: Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE


Airport Show Middle East

Date: May 14-16, 2024

Venue: Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE