United Arab Emirates - Country Commercial Guide
Aerospace and Aviation

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-07-26


There are many opportunities for U.S. exporters in the aerospace and aviation sector in the UAE.

The civil aviation sector is a vital contributor to the UAE’s economy. In 2019, before the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the aviation transport industry supported nearly 800,000 jobs and contributed $47.4 billion to the annual Gross Domestic Product ($19.3 billion from airlines and their supply chains and over $28 billion from the aviation-supported foreign tourism sector), roughly 13.3% of the UAE’s GDP. While the pandemic  severely affected  the aviation sector, it is rebounding and remains a key sector of the overall economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted the UAE’s aviation sector and continues to have a significant impact on airline operations and profitability. Travel and tourism in the UAE took a big hit from the sudden drop in traffic and lockdowns across the world. Amid aggressive efforts to cut costs and stimulate demand, aviation leaders in the UAE predict a recovery in 2022-2023.

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.

The UAE has four major passenger aviation carriers, including Dubai-based Emirates Airline (full-service carrier since 1985), Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways (full-service carrier since 2004), flydubai (low-cost carrier since 2009), and Sharjah-based Air Arabia (low-cost carrier since 2003). The UAE has seven international airports including Dubai International Airport (DXB), one of the world’s largest and busiest international airports, and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Abu Dhabi formed partnerships to create budget airlines such as Wizz Air Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi.

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, Emirates Airlines operates 265 widebody aircraft - 153 Boeing 777 aircrafts, and 126 777X pending delivery, and 120 Airbus 380 aircraft. Etihad Airways operates 98  aircraft - 39 Boeing 787, 19 Boeing 777, 30 Airbus A320, 5 Airbus 350, and 5 Boeing 777 freighters. Air Arabia Airline operates 53 Airbus 320 aircraft and  flydubai operates 64 Boeing 737 aircraft.

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.

Strata Manufacturing, located in Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, is owned by Mubadala Investment Company. Strata was formed to forge partnerships 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 (http://www.nibrasalain.com/), 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.

In Dubai, the Emirates Engine Maintenance Center (EMEC) 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.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Airport Services and Equipment

The UAE has major international airports in Dubai Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, as well as other airports. A variety of airport equipment and services are in demand as the UAE aims to keep airports at the forefront of technology.

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 FBO. New catering and FBO facilities will need to be developed to further expand ground handling and catering.

Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO)

The UAE aims to establish itself as a hub for 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

Dubai Airshow

November 12-16, 2023

Al Maktoum International Airport DWC, Dubai Airshow Site, Dubai, UAE


Global Aerospace Summit

May 2024

Abu Dhabi, UAE


Airport Show Middle East

May 9-11, 2023



MRO Middle East

March 1- 2, 2023

Dubai, UAE


Abu Dhabi Air Expo

November 1-3, 2022

Al Bateen Executive Airport, Abu Dhabi, UAE