The Airbus A380 is a conspicuous aircraft in its own right. Its sheer size holds an enigmatic majesty, turning the heads of avgeeks and the general public alike wherever it goes. Although it has been less successful as a commercial enterprise, UAE flag carrier Emirates has always retained a strong commitment to the ‘superjumbo.’
With the A380 being its flagship, Emirates took the opportunity to perform a spectacular formation flight over Dubai in November 2015. The other participants? Two jetpack pilots!
Showcasing the beauty of flight
November 5th, 2015 saw an unprecedented formation flight take place in the skies over the UAE. As Emirates reports, one aspect of this display involved one of its flagship Airbus A380s flying in two holding patterns, 4,000 feet above Dubai. While this, in itself, makes for a pleasant sight, the airline enlisted two local daredevils to add a layer of brave extravagance to the display.
Having launched from a helicopter, two flying wing pilots from the Jetman Dubai team initially hovered above the A380 at 5,500 feet. During the stunning formation flight, they performed various formations on either side of the double-decker passenger-carrying behemoth. This made for a striking contrast in size, a video of which you can see on our TikTok!
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Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Adel Al Redha, said at the time:
“This display between man and machine celebrates the magic and beauty of flight, a feat which just over a hundred years ago would have seemed an impossible dream. It also showcases how far human vision and ambition has [pushed], and can continue to push, aviation’s boundaries.”
Extensive planning and safety efforts
The display was meticulously planned to ensure maximum safety for everyone involved. When watching footage of the flight, what one can’t see is the “painstaking planning and meticulous collaboration with an intense focus on safety” that went into making it possible.
Over three months, the pilots involved even underwent simulator training to be prepared for every possible contingency during the display. According to Mr Al Redha, the following stakeholders were involved in planning the seamless formation flight.
- General Civil Aviation Authority of the UAE.
- Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.
- Dubai Air Traffic Control (ATC).
- SkyDive Dubai.
- Numerous departments at Emirates.
The A380 at Emirates
Emirates is by far the world’s largest Airbus A380 operator. In August 2008, it became the second airline to fly the superjumbo commercially, after Singapore Airlines the previous October. The 117 examples currently in its fleet, according to Planespotters.net, represent almost half of all the A380s that Airbus has ever produced.
While many airlines have prematurely retired their A380s due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Emirates has longer-term plans for the aircraft. It announced in February 2021 that it will fly the superjumbo until the mid-2030s. It expects to receive its last delivery in 2022, with the penultimate example having already gone to be painted in Hamburg, Germany.
Do you remember this spectacular formation flight over Dubai? Have you ever witnessed any similar displays? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!