Dubai’s $82 billion aerospace gamble

Oct. 5, 2008

It’s a windswept desert of dunes, rocks and 120-degree heat home to camels, snakes and antelope.

Cutting through this desolate landscape, a dark tongue of asphalt is the only evidence that a project first dreamt of 30 years ago – to make Dubai the world’s top airport hub and a global aerospace player – is on the verge of coming true.

One of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai may have a population of just 1.6 million, but it’s got grand ambitions – and deep pockets to bankroll them.

Its latest venture? An $82 billion gamble centering on the construction of the world’s largest airport and the creation of an aerospace champion with leasing, maintenance and training capabilities.

Despite turbulent conditions in the airline industry and rising fuel costs, Dubai is determined to become a top global aerospace player and home to the world’s biggest, busiest airport.

“The Middle East is taking over the aerospace industry and Dubai is at the heart of it,” said Doug McVitie of consultancy Arran Aerospace.

The tiny-but-rich Persian Gulf emirate has just completed the first runway at the heart of the future Al Maktoum International Airport, about 40 kilometers south west of old Dubai, on land set aside 30 years ago by former ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

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