If men were meant to fly they would have been given wings. James Fryer doesn’t recommend telling that to the daredevil sky captains who’ll be performing at this year’s Al Ain Aerobatic Show.
No sooner than the aeroplane had been invented, man became bored of simply flying from A to B in a calm and sensible manner, and instead decided to test his new found flying machine to the limit, simultaneously wowing those below with thrilling displays of aerobatic manoeuvrability.
Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first to perform aerobatic stunts in the early 1900s, and by World War I all of the basic aerobatic tricks had not only been ticked off, but were routinely being performed by the courageous dog fighters of the day. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) is as old as the first aerobatic stunt and will once again be involved with the Al Ain Air Show where spectators will be given the chance to enjoy aeronautic acrobatics including amazing combinations of loops, rolls, spins and hammerheads (forcing the aircraft into a vertical descent) – taken to the very extremes of mechanic and human limits as the pilots duck and dive through the UAE’s ever-blue skies.
The FAI World Grand Prix event will also be performed to music (selected by the competitors) with tunes fighting for attention alongside the sound from the aeroplanes that fills the skies like the roar of thunder. It’s much like synchronised swimming, only in this case it’s not girls in swimming costumes and nose clips, but huge chunks of metal travelling at breakneck speeds with only their engines to keep them afloat in the sky. The piston, turbine and jet engine aeroplanes dancing in the air will all be judged by an expert panel who’ll be deciding which solo pilot, civilian formation team or military formation team is the king of the sky.
Highlights from this year’s military teams will hopefully include the Royal Saudi Air Force’s Saudi Falcons with their Red Arrows style smoke display and repertoire of snap rolls, loops, splits, mirror rolls and Cuban eights, the UAE Airforce putting its latest jets to the test and the Indian Airforce’s elite pilots taking to the skies in the form of the nine-aircraft flying formation Suryakiran team.
Individual top guns to watch out for include Freestyle World Aerobatic Champion Klaus Schrodt, test pilot Jurgis Kairys, famous for being able to make his aircraft hover like a helicopter, wing walking duo Bob and Kenny Forsythe and Dan Buchanan, a man who overcame paraplegia, returned to his passion and is legendary for his dazzling hang glider performances.
Civilian aerobatic display teams set to keep the crowd’s eyes permanently fixed on the sky include the UK’s Honda Dream Team, climbing 3,000ft straight up like a rocket, the Breitling Jet Team, dazzling spectators with their five jet aeroplanes and the X-Team, performing an array of stunt flying and pyrotechnics from their Masters Of X-Treme show.
But, before you fork out for a Cessna aeroplane and try your hand at a loop-the-loop, you should know that all of the pilots and human-aeroplanes (as they like to be known) taking part in the event have trained to be at the very height of their profession – the pilots need to maintain the flow of blood to their brains as they pull off stunts and the force of gravity or G-force increases by eight times.
As if all of the above didn’t provide enough of a fun-filled star-gazing fest, this January’s five day show will also see displays from the UAE parachute team, Nadia H AdamAli – the self-proclaimed only professional Arab woman skydiver with a whopping 900 jumps under her belt, and up to 70 of the finest free-flying skydivers from around the globe who’ll be joining together in an attempt to make the largest ever airborne formation, breaking the current world record.
Fasten your seatbelts and take off for one of the greatest spectator events in the UAE. Chocks away for man and his miraculous flying machine.
Al Ain Aerobatics Show and FAI World Grand Prix, January 11 to 15, Al Ain International Airport. Tel: (03) 7642000.