Bahrain International Airshow

Yousif Mahmoud / Director General of BIAS

I started in the aviation industry in 1985 when the government initiated the recruitment program for Bahrani air traffic controllers, which saw us recruited straight out of high school and sent to college to study air traffic control. In 1988 we graduated from the Civil Aviation College in Doha and joined the Civil Aviation Affairs, which was the sole authority responsible for the entire aviation industry at the time.

There were few private sector companies, it was predominantly managed by the government. In 1989, I began my 14-year career in air traffic control in the control tower and was promoted to work in approach control after training course in UK in 1992.

A couple of years later, I moved on to area control, after successfully completing my course at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore Changi Civil Aviation Collage, which covers various stages of air traffic control and career development, and in 1999 I got my bachelor’s degree in aviation science in partnership with Cairo University.

In 2003, I transitioned to become the Head of Media at Civil Aviation and the official spokesperson for Bahrain International Airport, representing the government in all matters related to the aviation industry, as well as participating at airshows and events to promote the Bahraini aviation sector.

In 2009, an initiative was launched to separate the government and the private sector in aviation. Civil Aviation became the regulator, and a new airport company Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) was established to manage the airport operations. During this transition, many departments were transferred to the (BAC) Bahrain Airport Company, but I remained at Civil Aviation.

Coincidentally, in 2010, the idea of an airshow was being discussed and due to my background in media and marketing, I was chosen to lead the development of the initiative. Since then, I have been dedicated to organising and hosting the Bahrain International Airshow.

We have successfully completed six editions, with the seventh edition scheduled for next year in November. Our airshow is unique, it’s not a generic event but rather a boutique airshow, often referred to as a five-star, ‘must- visit’ event. We pay great attention to every detail. In 2022, we had a total attendance of over 46,000 people from over 30 countries over the course of three days. Our format is different from other airshows, which often span over 5-10 days.

Now, let’s go back to how the idea of the air show originated. His Majesty the King, who is a pilot himself, proposed the idea in 2004 after attending the Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, near London, United Kingdom. He was impressed by the event and asked his team, including his second son, HRH Sheikh Abdullah, to explore the possibility of organising a similar airshow in Bahrain. HRH Sheikh Abdullah appointed a team, and from 2004 to 2009, they worked on the concept.

Finally, in 2009, the responsibility for the airshow was handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority to oversee and ensure its success. Our team worked closely with the Farnborough International team, an experienced UK-based company with a rich aviation history, to stage our airshow at the highest level.

To make our airshow stand out, we introduced a unique concept: the Chalet Hospitality Package. We built 40 fully fitted chalets allowing companies to host and entertain -guests in a private and exquisite setting. The ready-built chalets provide unrivalled views of both the static and flying display, and include catering, branding and graphics, and extra services such as luxury chauffeur driven cars and much more.

The development of these packages made it easier for companies to participate, international and regional, without worrying about the logistics.

As our airshow grew, we expanded our offerings. In 2016, we converted a hangar into an exhibition hall, allowing more companies, including small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs), to participate, and enabling us to increase the number of participants and visitors of the event.

Our airshow focuses on fostering business relationships, and it’s not just an entertainment event. Over the years, we have facilitated deals worth $14 billion within the aviation industry, which we  track through announcements made by participating companies during the event. As well as the industry impact, the economic impact of the Bahrain International Airshow is significant.

Attendees spend money on flights, transportation, hotels, food, shopping, and more, which boosts the local economy. This event has evolved into a crucial platform for aviation companies to connect, network, and make substantial business deals.

We are looking forward to an even more successful edition in 2024, as the aviation industry continues to recover from the impact of COVID-19.”

Bahrain’s leading airshow, the Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS), is gearing up for its 2024 edition, setting its sights on industry growth and development. Scheduled to take place from November 13 to 15, 2024, at Sakhir Airbase, BIAS enjoys the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad and the oversight of HRH Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Personal Representative of HM the King, chairman of the BIAS Supreme Organising Committee.

The seventh edition of BIAS will continue to be organised by the Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry and the Royal Bahrain Air Force (RBAF), in collaboration with Farnborough International.

Recently, the BIAS organising committee, led by HRH Sheikh Abdullah, has signed a framework program with ADS Group, the trade association representing the UK’s aerospace, defence, security, and space sectors. This partnership aims to create a UK Pavilion at the airshow in 2024.

Yousif Mahmoud, Director General of BIAS, stated, “With this framework, we aspire to create the foundation for UK participation at Bahrain International Airshow that meets the highest standards of excellence and contributes substantially to Bahrain and UK companies’ progress in the sectors. We’re proud to embark on this journey with ADS Group to strengthen our relationships with UK aerospace and defence organisations and drive collaboration across the region.”

Kevin Craven, CEO of ADS Group, emphasised that their commitment to BIAS 2024 enhances their international business development efforts, with their exhibitors experiencing a 25% year-on-year growth. The Bahrain International Airshow holds significance as it attracts industry giants such as Airbus, Boeing, Gulf Stream, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Leonardo, Rolls Royce, Thales, Bell Helicopter, and other prominent companies.

The event has been instrumental in strengthening Bahrain’s defence capabilities, with the Royal Bahrain Air Force expanding its fleet with advanced aircraft acquisitions. In 2022, business deals worth $1.8 billion were signed at BIAS, with significant attendance and participation from military and civil delegations and international companies. Since the 2022 airshow, the event has seen ongoing success, marked by new partnerships, increased investments, and a GDP growth rate of 4.9% in the following year, the highest since 2013. In addition, Bahrain’s tourism sector has thrived, with a 51% increase in visitors in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, totalling 5.9 million visitors.