Al Ain Aerobatics Show 2008

A History of the Al Ain Aerobatics Show

Al Ain, also known as the ‘garden city’ is a city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. In 2003, Al Ain hosted its first airshow, which also happened to be the first aerobatics event staged in the Arabian Gulf. Now when you read ‘first airshow’ and ‘Arabian Gulf’, and the Dubai airshow stands out, well the Airshow in Dubai is a trade fair and the purpose of the aerobatics display is to display the capabilities of the aircrafts on sale (Check out my article on the Dubai Airshow 2007 (opens in a new tab)) whereas the airshow in Al Ain is an aerobatics show meant for pilots and international teams show-off their skills. In addition, it also allows the public to get an insight into general aviation. Let’s face it, the only aspect of aviation the general public are exposed to is commercial avaition. At such airshows, visitors get to see up close and even sit in flying machines they usually see in the media. In some shows, the visitors can also interact with the pilots who readily share their experiences in hopes to inspire people to follow their dreams or children to pursue aviation as a career. Since the 2003 show, the airshow has grown rapidly attracting visitors, aerobatics teams from various countries and individual performers from all over the world.

…and now, Al Ain Aerobatics Show 2008

On 25 January 2008, I decided to head to Al Ain to get my fix of aviation. As soon as I purchased my tickets and entered the show premises, I was greeted by stalls – selling memorobilia, advertising products, flight schools, aviation services and of course – food. Then I proceeded to the seating area, grabbed a good spot to enjoy the show. The seats get full real fast so being there early is crucial.

1  Remote Control Aircraft        Remote Control   UAE            11:30 AM

The show opened with performances by RC aircraft – this was a first. In previous years, the show would start with a skydivers jumping off a plane and landing right in front of the viewing area.

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An R/C Concorde …nice to see the concorde flying again!

2  FreeFly Circus                 Cessna Caravan   UAE & Italy    12:30 PM

Now this was more of a familiar opneing to an airshow. A group of 4 skidivers from Italy, jump off a Cessna and displayed their skills for the audience before landing in front of the viewing gallery.

3  Mikael Carlson                 Tummelisa        Sweden         12:42 PM

To me Mikeael Carlson was the highlight of this year’s show. He displayed two of his airplanes, one a restored World War 1 Tummelisa and the other a restored Bleriot XI. The commentary during the presentation was quite interesting and informative. For example, did you know that World War 1 planes didn’t have throttles? It was either ‘throttle at zero’ or ‘full throttle’. This was also evident as Mikael did a slow fly-by, you could hear the engines alternating between full power and idle.

 

4  Al Ain Aerobatic Competition   Prop aircrafts   International  12:50 PM

This was more like a introduction to all the participants of the Al ain Aerobatics competition.

5  Aerobatic Yakkers              Yak 52           Romania         2:11 PM

This was an interesting presentation of co-ordinated flying. Two Yak-52 are flown side-by-side for most of the performance, only breaking once for a maneuver. Imagine what’s going on in the minds of the pilots? They have to look at the instruments, co-ordinate turns, rolls…all while maintaining the safe distance between his aircraft and his buddy’s Yak-52.

6  Peggy Wing Walker              Boeing Stearman  Germany         2:22 PM

This was the first time I got to see a ‘wing-walking’ spectacle at the airshow. Although not as vibrant as the Guinot Wing Walker’s performance (keep reading!), it was interesting to see a woman (it usually is..come to think of it) waving at the audience or striking a pose asthe pilot performs aerobatics.

7  Pilatus                        PC-21            Switzerland     2:35 PM

This segment..well to be honest was more of an advertisement than a show. Pilatus was one of the sponsors of the airshow and in fact, this same aircraft flew a similar performance at the Dubai Airshow 2007 (check out my article on the Dubai Airshow 2007 – link opens in a new tab).

8  Pioneer Team                   Pioneer 300 Hawk Italy           2:42 PM

Another example of co-ordinated flying. Four Pioneer 300 airplane perform aerobatics. The Pioneer 300 is an Italian built light sport airplane designed by Alpi Aviation. Somehow the look of the airplane (shape and livery) kept reminding of the Canadian Snowbirds!

9  Ali Ozturk                     Purple Violet    Turkey          2:55 PM

Sadly, I went out to grab a bite to eat at this point.  But it’s not all bad. I present below pictures of Mr. Ali and his ‘Purple Violet’ taken last year at the Al Ain airshow 2007.

 

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Ali Ozturk reparing for his routine. Taken at the Al Ain Aerobatics show 2007

10 Royal Saudi Hawks              Hawks            KSA             3:04 PM

One of two national formation teams performing at the Al ain Aerobatics Show.

11 Zoltan Baloon Cut              Extra 300        Hungary         3:30 PM

A very interesting segment, this was where Zoltan Veres flies his aircraft low, fast (O and upside down too) and cuts a ribbon in front of the viewing area. Sadly, I was not equipped nor skilled enough to capture the moment 😥  But anyway, here’s Mr. Veres before and after the moment.

12 Bird Show                      Birds            UAE             3:38 PM

In this segment, we get to see falcons in action. I forgot the finer details, but I do remember it involved watching falcons hunt.

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13 Jurgis Kairys                  SU-31            Lithuania       3:49 PM

Jurgis Kairys, a famous Lithuanian performer takes it to the skies. On the ground we had ‘cheerleaders’ dancing to music (which BTW was very distracting 😉

14 South African Wizards          Extra & Pitts    South Africa    3:57 PM

In this segment we had four airplanes, two Pitts (the bi-planes) and two Extra (single-winged airplanes) perform. Without a doubt, the highlight of this segment was when two skydivers (one from each bi-plane) jump off the plane when inverted.

15 Skip Stewart                   Pitts            USA             4:16 PM

A thrilling performance filled with high speed, low flying aerobatics. This performer reminded me of Jim Leroy, whom I managed to see in the 2007 show. Jim Leroy  sadly passed away in an aerobatics accident a few months before this show.

16 Royal Jordanian Falcons        Extra 300        Jordan          4:27 PM

The other of the two national formation teams performing at the show.

17 Red Bull Helicopter            BO-105           Germany         4:43 PM

First up, I had no clue helicopters were capable of aerobatics until I saw this segment. The helicopters managed to do a few barrel rolls, loops and even hover to the amazement of the viewers.

18 Guinot Wing Walkers            Boeing Stearman  Great Britain   4:50 PM

The second wing-walking segment of the show. As Skip Stewart was performing, the Guinot team prepares to take it to the skies. A lot of the viewers were distracted by this. The Guinot Wing Walkers’s performance was more exciting and involved the wing-walkers performing more dangerous moves while flying. Highlights included the wing-walkers posing to the audience during acrobatics moves and eventually making their way down to the passenger seat while flying.

 

19 Mikael Carlson Classic         Bleriot XI       Sweden          5:05 PM

THE highlight of the show. This was the second performance by Mikael Carlson but this time on a restored Bleriot XI – the type of aircraft that Louis Bleriot used to cross the English Channel back on 25th July 1909. The Bleriot XI takes off from a dirt strip a little ahead of the viewing area and performs a couple of fly-bys.

20 Alabama Boys Comedy Show       Piper J-3 CUB    USA             5:11 PM

A fun segment that involved a ‘rogue’ audience member (staged off course) taking control of a Piper J-3 Cub and flying. The whole performance was interesting considering how hard it must have been for the pilot to portray a novice flyer by flying ‘bad’.

 

21 TinStix of Dynamite            SU-31 & Pitts    Lithuania & USA 5:24 PM

This was the grand finale indeed. It was a simulated dogfight between Skip Stewart’s Pitts bi-plane and Jurgis Kairys’s SU-31. They would make use of pyro in the background to simulate gunfire and the explosion of the ‘downed’ aircraft.

 

Conclusion

After the vibrant 2005 show, the 2007 show was a real disappointment due to a lack of performers. But the 2008 show was definitely an improvement. The one quality that sets this show apart from the other airshows (at least the other ones I have visited) is that it presents the ‘best in the world of airshows’ at one show. As I mentioned above, aerobatics alone can get repetitive and frankly boring, so the inclusion of acts like the Red bull helicopter, the wing walkers, the comedy show and Tinstix of dynamite keeps the show fresh. As of 2015, the show has rebranded itself as the ‘Al Ain Air Championship’ and is now more of a competition involving prelim, semi-final and final rounds, each with its own round of elimination. The Al Ain aerobatics show will be a special air show as I was exposed to a side of aviation I was always curious about – general aviation.

There you have it folks, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed going down memory lane. As always questions, comments are always welcome. Until my next post…Happy landings!!!

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