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Arabian Adventures - from Angus to Al Ain!

Gill Howie/Squadron Prints reports from the Al Ain Aerobatics Show 2007, held over 26-30 January. Pictures by the author, Berry Vissers/Squadron Prints and Roy Wilson

For the third consecutive year 'Squadron Prints Ltd' attended the Al Ain Aerobatic Show in the United Arab Emirates - this year was somewhat of a 'Royal' occasion for us when His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Head of the Higher Organising Committee, stopped at our stall. It was a great honour for the His Highness to pay us a visit and indeed a great pleasure to present him with a specially commissioned Squadron Print of his country's newest and most agile aircraft.

Al Ain heavies

Where is Al Ain? Nestled on the border between Oman and the United Arab Emirates, it has to be the tourist secret of the Middle East. Everyone has heard of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but Al Ain is still traditional in its values, yet very much proactive in its tourism approach. Al Ain is certainly Arabic, mystic and highly enjoyable - known as the 'Garden City', its tree-lined roads are interrupted with highly unusual roundabouts, each one sporting a unique feature; one with camels, one with a Coffee Pot, and many with water features all immaculately attended to - attractions in their own right! Flights are available to Dubai and Abu Dhabi by many airlines and both are about ninety minutes from Al Ain, so I would suggest hiring a car. The City boasts four fine hotels, this year we stayed in the lovely Al Ain Hilton where the views were stunning, either over the city towards Oman or looking towards Al Ain's mountain, Jebel Hafeet. There is also a Hotel Rotana, an Intercontinental and a Grand Mercure right on top of Jebel Hafeet - the views from there are amazing, worth the thirteen kilometer drive up the mountain! The hotel is also beautiful - don't persuade the missus that you HAVE to go to the airshow - offer her a holiday in the sun in January - the temperature is warm and comfortable, you don't need to go to the show until midday so relax by the pool in the morning! If she goes to the show, she will be comfortable and have a seat - all-in-all a great experience for you both!

Al Ain may be a secret of the UAE, dominated by Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it is peaceful, beautiful and not so commercialised. One hundred kilometers inland from its famous neighbours, there are modern supermarkets and shopping malls, but it is just as easy to see wild camels at the side of the road on route to the airshow site - especially when they stare in to your vehicle from the back of a truck! The mystique, the smells and the atmosphere is something you cannot get in the more westernised Dubai which is full of traffic, mobile phones and noise.

We were delighted to receive an invitation to attend the show and jumped at the chance as you never know what is going to be there - this year nothing was released until a week before the event, which was a shame as it may have enticed some more tourists from Europe. The quality, as usual, was different and unique and only Al Ain could gather these groups together. Colonel Pilot Mohammed Abdullah bin Barrak Al Dhaheri, General Coordinator of the Show, is the main man behind the event with the Flying Control Committee Chairman being Chairman Lt Col Abdullah Hadher Khamis Al Amimi. Both are officers in the UAE Air Force and worked hard to put the event together, trying to keep it a family entertainment show but still trying to satisfy the interests of aviation enthusiasts from around the world by attracting acts that are not readily seen out of their own countries. This year was certainly different - a good all-round family entertainment show with lots and lots of action.

The airshow venue is located at a specially constructed site at the Al Ain International Airport and was still being finished when we arrived - the car park was being laid on Wednesday and by Thursday it was all marked out and ready! Impressive. The site itself was specially mono blocked and laid out and this year the display line was at a safer distance than previous years - just as well really as some of the stunts and displays this year were truly spectacular.

As 2007's first major airshow, Al Ain attracted over 125,000 people, debuted several items as a 'World First' and even gained a new World Record with Zoltan V achieving 408 consecutive rolls!! Sadly no UAE military hardware took part, highly disappointing for many of the Europeans who attended, but it will certainly not deter them from returning. I have been told that plans for next year are under way and there will be some military participation in 2008, but it will remain a uniquely different show from the UK.

From noon until six in the evening the event was all-action and throughout the show the aerobatic specialists competed for the 'Al Ain International Aerobatic Show Prize'. Some stunning flying, the winner being Svetlana Kapanina, scooping the $50,000 prize, followed by Klaus Schrodt ($30,000) and Victor Chmal ($20,000).

Every year at Al Ain has been different - this year was no exception - I can't wait to see what is going to be at the 2008 show... I hear there is to be something special... what? Again? I cannot imagine how it can be even MORE special, but I have a good idea... keep watching the website! See you there hopefully! From models to military hardware and space to dynamite - it was all happening at Al Ain.


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