UAE Defence Minister and Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktum, flanked by top military brass, cut the red ribbon to open the eighth International Aerospace Exhibition.

He then proceeded with visiting dignitaries to inspect the flight line, which was dominated by US Air Force jets such as Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon and Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow combat helicopter and C-17 transport aircraft.

Lieutenant General Jon Baiker, vice commander of the Illinois-based Air Force's Air Mobility Command, said he brought the
Apache over to Dubai on board the C-17, all the way from Washington state.

About 550 exhibitors from 36 countries are expected to take part in the show, which runs until 11 December.

This year's show will have a 60-40 ratio of civilian to military participation, say organisers, which include the UAE's Department of Civil Aviation and Armed Forces and the Dubai government. 

"This show is for the whole region and is an opportunity to highlight the potential of the area in aviation," Shaikh Ahmad bin Said al-Maktum, president of the UAE's Department of Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Airlines, said. 

Emirates order

He said Emirates would announce an engines order on Monday, but declined to provide further details. 

The Dubai-based airline signed an aircraft order worth about
$12.5 billion with Europe's Airbus Industries at the Paris air show in June. 
 

"This show is for the whole region and is an opportunity to highlight the potential of the area in aviation"

Shaikh Ahmad bin Said
al-Maktum,
President of UAE Civil Aviation

It also took everyone by surprise at the last Dubai air show, which came on the heels of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by announcing aircraft and engines orders worth about $15 billion.

The bi-annual industry gathering was first launched in 1989 and has since gained a higher profile in an attempt to rival premier events at Le Bourget in France and Farnborough in Britain.