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Middle East Show Ends On High Note, And Big Order

Cessna Wins $90 Million Contract For Three Columbus Jets, Other Planes

For all the woes now plaguing the global private aircraft industry, there was little sign of financial turmoil at this week's Middle East Business Aviation 2008 show in Dubai. The three-day event wrapped up Tuesday with close to $1.5 billion in new aircraft orders for exhibitors.

Business publication AME Info reports one of the last deals announced at MEBA was a $90 million order from Wallan Aviation for a range of new and used Cessna aircraft -- including three Citation Columbus large-cabin jets, a Caravan turboprop and two used CJs. Wallan is a Cessna distributor, and refused to disclose the identities of its customers for the aircraft.

"The Middle East is a growing market for us and our class of jets," said Trevor Esling, Cessna's Vice President, International Sales, Europe, Middle East and Africa. "We know that the Middle East market is very much a see it, touch it, feel it market and MEBA, which is well organized, with excellent infrastructure and great access for a big event, allows us to establish relationships on a face-to-face basis with potential customers."

A relative upstart received its first Middle Eastern order. Project Phoenix -- which converts used CRJ200 regional airliners into plush 12- to 19-seat executive transports -- won a high-profile order for one of its planes from Egyptian film star and martial arts expert Yousef Mansour.

MEBA 2008 was over three times the size of last year's inaugural event, according to show organizers. More than 70 aircraft were on static display, and some 250 companies from 30 countries participated in the exhibition.

Despite mounting concern over the dismal state of the global economy, Ali Al Naqbi, founder of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), says he remains optimistic about the growing need for business aviation... and predicts the next MEBA event in two years will be even grander.

"This event was perfect, It was three times as big as 2007 and exhibitors have told me that they had direct access to the people they needed to do business with," he said. "After all the deals and announcements we have seen at MEBA 2008, we can be assured that the market is growing and that there is plenty of confidence out there."

While most exhibitors said they expect the Middle East market to escape the current crisis relatively unscathed, not everyone believes the oil-rich region will be totally immune from global concerns.

"It will be unrealistic to assume that Middle East will be insulated from the shocks of the global financial turbulence," Mike Barry, Middle East Managing Director for ExecuJet, told The Khaleej Times.

FMI: www.actionaviation.com/phxindex.htm, www.cessna.com

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