29 January 2005

Al-Ain Airshow

A great day out, we thought, and got into Geoff's Jag to head for the Garden City.

Al-Ain is a town in the very South-East of the UAE, almost in the Empty Quarter, but belonging to Abu Dhabi. It is known for its parks and its roundabouts, and the air show, now in its second year. This year it hosts the FAI Aerobatics World Grand Prix. This competition consists of solo displays by pilots from lots of countries as well as model aeroplanes competing for the title.


The Indian Peacocks - Helicopter Display Team

The best thing was the side shows, though, the jet and other displays from air forces and aerobatics teams. We saw the Jordanian Falcons, Russian jets, Indian helicopters flying in formation and micro light displays. The teams have names like Matadors, Ultimate High and Space Knights and come from the UK, France, Czech Republic. They tumble through space, flying sideways, upside down and any which way, impossible to know how they manage to remember which direction is up. The Maroccan team flew in a diamond shape with ropes joining the planes together by their wing tips. The Russian Migs dropped phosphor flares like bright fireworks and deafened us with their afterburners. Felix Baumgarnter, who recently glided his way across the channel with just a pair of fibreglass wings attached, performed a freefall parachute jump from 3000 feet, opening his chute just before it was too late.


Alternative Formation Flying

The most startling sight, however, was a man in a microlight trailing a formation of geese. These Barnacle geese are imprinted with the pilot's call and the sound of the microlight's engine, and they fly in their v-shaped pattern alongside him. Their elegance was a fitting contrast and end to an amazing display of flying skills in the depth of the UAE's desert.

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