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Crowds thrill to high jinks at Al Ain Air Championship

posted on 19/12/2015: 1399 views

Ground-shaking military jets, graceful team formations and daring parachutists delighted the crowds on the opening day of the revamped Al Ain Air Championship.

"The skill level is beyond imagination, these are really clever people,” said Al Ain resident Ian Rogers. "All of these people performing today, their experience is second to none.”

The three-day event kicked off on Thursday, with the first performers trying to win the hearts and minds of a panel of judges and the crowd, to become the competition's first champion.

Among the first day's performers, Mr Rogers said the performance by the seven members of the aerobatic team Saudi Hawks and a solo effort by UK stunt pilot Richard Goodwin were top of his list.

Performances on Thursday included the Belgian Bronco, a turboprop from the Royal Bavarian Air Force, F16 and Mirage military jets, the US Misty Blues skydiving team, and the Breitling Wingwalkers.

And a late afternoon performance by Al Fursan, the aerobatic team of the UAE Air Force, painted the skies above Al Ain with the country's national colours.

Teams from around the world competing for the first championship trophy are being judged on power, grace, national pride and wow factor.

Also up for grabs were a number of watches from Breitling, based on performances in each category.

On a visit from Germany, Hans-Rudolf Bork found himself at the show after arriving in the UAE for a week-long holiday.

After growing up near a small airport in the German city of Kiel, he said he attended an annual air show, spurring his interest in the world of aviation.

"It was nothing compared with what they've organised here,” he said. "I didn't know there was such a big show going on. I'm very much impressed with what's going on here.”

As for naming his choice, he said that was too difficult.

"I don't have a special favourite, they are all so different so it's hard to compare,” he said.

While delighted by the planes, Abhilash Thankappan – who travelled to the show with family and friends – said his favourite performance was by the Glider FX Aerobatics team from the United Kingdom, which performed a series of rolls, loops, and tumbles while accompanied by a parachutist.

"It was fantastic,” he said. "The family was very excited to see it as well.”

Hala Appie, who is originally from Zimbabwe, took her two children to see their first airshow, and was particularly excited by the military jets, which included a deafening performance by an Air Force F16 and Mirage jet.

"It's good. I want to see how they do their thing,” she said. "I'm going to take a good look at them and also watch the different shows that all the pilots will be doing.”

After one day of competition, the Breitling Wingwalkers were announced by organisers as the front-runners in the competition.

In addition to the aerial acts, visitors were treated to some action at ground level, with drifting demonstrations, where drivers deliberately oversteer their cars yet maintain control through bends.

The aerial competition continues until tomorrow with performances throughout the day by all teams, followed by night-time entertainment.

The champion of the event is expected to be crowned on Saturday during a gala dinner. – The National -


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