When the invitation came months ago to attend the Abu Dhabi Air Expo as a guest of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company, which organized the event, and recognize the newly formed AOPA group for the Emirates, I accepted. This first-time exhibition has not disappointed a few thousand attendees over the three-day event held at the Al Bateen Executive Airport.
It has been great to experience the enthusiasm of aviators here in Abu Dhabi. The show provides attendees with a look at a full range of aircraft from light sport to a Boeing 737 and everything in between. The reported use of GA aircraft is growing in the region and firms are looking to establish themselves here. Local officials are saying that private aviation in the Middle East is expected to experience a 20 percent growth rate.
Interesting conversations have been held with several individuals who talk about the need for pilots, and flight instruction seems to be a growing part of the aviation industry in the region. When we asked one very active flight instructor from the region about the use of flight simulators, he said that today they only have one Redbird flight simulator but others with motion have been ordered.
This was just one of many conversations that remind me of how much the U.S. aviation community is respected around the world.
While in Abu Dhabi, in my capacity as IAOPA president, I officially recognized M. Yousif Al Hammadi as the newest representative to the International Council of AOPAs, bringing the number of member countries to 70. The Council is growing fast, with Namibia joining just last year. I must say, finding people with a passion for general aviation around the world is a very rewarding experience.
Later today, Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Foundation, will make a presentation to the attendees. Bruce and I, along with our colleagues, are grateful to have been invited to be guests at this important gathering. And, we all came away enthusiastic about finding yet another place where the belief in general aviation is very much alive and well.