Emirates, Etihad, flydubai, Air Arabia and Al Fursan took to the skies in unison on December 2, to celebrate the UAE's 47th National Day, as well as commemorate the legacy and values of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The late founding father of the UAE dedicated his life and leadership to unify and shape a better collective future for the nation, and today's formation flight is a soaring display of unity as all four carriers showcase the UAE's aviation success story to the nation and world.
The spectacular flypast - a world-first and a UAE civil aviation milestone - involved over 11 aircraft: a flydubai Boeing 737 MAX 8 (Zayed 1), an Air Arabia Airbus A320 (Zayed 2), an Etihad Airways Airbus A380 (Zayed 3) and an Emirates Airline Airbus A380 (Zayed 4), as well as seven Al Fursan aerobatic display jets from the UAE Air Force. All of the commercial aircraft within the formation were emblazoned with 'Year of Zayed' decals. This is also the first time that this unique combination of aircraft types fly in formation.
The aircraft were proudly commanded by Captain Adrian Smith from flydubai, Captain Nadhem Al Hamad from Air Arabia, Captain Richard Dyson from Etihad Airways and Captain Abbas Shaban from Emirates Airline. The Al Fursan team was led by Lieutenant Colonel Nasser Al Obaidli.
The carefully choreographed 'stair step' aerial formation began at 1:00pm on December 2, when the aircraft took-off from Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport. Once all of the aircraft established their holding positions with altitudes ranging from 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet with a 1,000 foot vertical separation, the formation commenced. Over the skies of Ras Al Khaimah, each aircraft adjusted its speed and turned to achieve a trail formation. The aircraft then descended into their positions and vertical separation was reduced to 300 feet.
Flying first in the 'Year of Zayed' formation was flydubai, cruising at an altitude of 1,000 feet and an airspeed of 210 knots, closely followed by Air Arabia, in line astern and stepped up at an altitude of 1,300 feet. Next came the Etihad Airbus A380 double-decker, trailing the first two aircraft and flying at 1,600 feet, stepped up by the Emirates Airbus A380 flying at the highest altitude at 1,900 feet to make room for the seven Al Fursan jets set in an arrow formation ready to release their signature smoke trails in the colours of the UAE flag.
Together, the stunning UAE carrier formation flew with impressive precision across the coastline of the UAE, starting at Ras Al Khaimah, continuing on to Um Al Quwain and Ajman, and then passing landmarks including the Sharjah Corniche, Dubai's Palm and World Islands with the Burj Khalifa skyline in the background, and finally crossing the Abu Dhabi Corniche and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, where all aircraft then split and continued on to their respective airports for landing.