Very few people could have imagined that in the heart of the Arabian desert rolled by sand dunes, a huge hi-tech aerospace will emerge, thus giving a new twist to the economic landscape of the Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is located in the same longitude and time zone to the north of Mauritius, has an ambitious plan to develop a global aerospace hub as a cornerstone to the Emirate’s economic diversification strategy, through long-term capital intensive investments. The project is part of UAE’s effort to boost the non-oil sector.
The UAE is a federation of seven monarchies or emirates each governed by a hereditary emir but united under a federal President. The constituent emirates are : Abu Dhabi, Aiman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain. By tradition, the presidency of UAE is always held by the Emir of Abu Dhabi and the prime ministership by the Emir of Dubai. In fact, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the two largest and most important entities among the seven emirates. It has to be pointed out that the Etihad Airways is the flag carrier of UAE but its headquarter is based in Abu Dhabi, where as the Emirates Airline is based at Dubai.
UAE’s aerospace is located in the oasis town of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi. It is the world’s newest and best equipped aerospace with hi-tech factories that can easily match with world-class aerospace of Seattle and Toulouse. This mega-project is spearheaded by Abu Dhabi through the Mubadala Development Company. It has entered into collaboration agreements with world-class aerospace and aviation companies with a view to leverage the expertise necessary for a high-tech, end-to-end technology and manufacturing base, offering both sate-of-art facilities and a global reach. The Mubadala aerospace also aims at creating hi-tech jobs for Emirati nationals, especially for female workers.
The aerospace has already started its operation by securing contracts from the world’s largest planemakers, which prefer to outsource the manufacture of complex sections such as jetliner’s wings, vertical tail fins, flaps and other aircraft parts. It is already manufacturing carbon composites for Airbus and Boeing. The factory of the Mubadala aerospace is specifically designed to make parts for lightweight carbon jets that will be increasingly in demand in future. Carbon sheets, the resinous black materials are moulded into aircraft parts and baked in a high pressure autoclave oven. The resulting structure is lighter and stronger than traditional aluminium, allowing airlines to save weight and burn less fuel. Each piece is tested with giant ultrasound scanners for invisible flaws.
As a strategy to its future expansion drive, UAE’s aerospace plans to become a global leader in manufacture of composite airframes, wings and emprennage (tail sections). The use of carbon composites have made it possible for fuel-efficiency aircraft like Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the upcoming Airbus 350 to fly further for less cost than metal aircraft of the same size. The demand for carbon composites in aerospace is, therefore, expected to double in the next decade.
The challenge of the UAE is to remain in the top league of the aerospace industry by securing contracts for supplying parts for the aircrafts of next generation and to recruit enough local workers to meet the country’s development targets. With the increasing pressure on demand for work force, the industry will be forced to recruit non-Emirati nationals. Mauritius must envisage a labour agreement in this specialized area in order to open opportunities for highly skilled Mauritian