Hi Fly’s Airbus A380 Causes Panic & Joy After Flying Just 230m Above Coastline

Earlier this week, Hi Fly caused panic and joy as it flew over holidaymakers enjoying the beach. The Portuguese charter airline said the performance was planned and intended to raise awareness as well as give planespotters a treat. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Hi Fly A380
Hi Fly completed a one hour flight over the Algarve on Wednesday. Photo: Ibex73 via Wikimedia Commons

Hi Fly flies low over Portuguese coastline

It’s a rare treat to see a Hi Fly Airbus A380 in operation at such a close range. But, that’s precisely the treat that some holidaymakers in Portugal got on Wednesday, August 5th.

The A380, registered as 9H-MIP, flew just 230 meters above the Algarve coastline in a stunt that impressed many keen aviation enthusiasts. The airline’s vice president Carlos Mirpuri reportedly piloted the aircraft in a planned event.

9H-MIP flew from Beja down to Faro. Image: FlightRadar24.com

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9H-MIP was completing a functional flight check, which lasted just under an hour. It left Beja International Airport at 14:44 local time (UTC+1) and flew over Faro and Vilamoura. Before it left from Beja Airport, it had published an alert on its Twitter account urging lucky enthusiasts to look out for the aircraft as it passed over the Algarve.

Panic or joy?

Despite the excitement that Hi Fly shared, some onlookers were fearful when the plane grazed the coastline. In a video filmed from the beach and posted on YouTube, beachgoers are seen retreating from the sea and running up the beach. According to reports, various calls were made to the national emergency services fearing that the aircraft might make a water landing.

The plane tracked the beaches along the Algarve coastline. Image: FlightRadar24.com

However, for those with a trained eye and others who had arrived for the spectacle, the flight was a controlled affair. Eventually, as the A380 passed the beach, holidaymakers stared in wonder.

According to Hi Fly, the low flight was also somewhat of a political stunt. It hoped that with the Save The Coral Reefs livery, the trip would be able to inspire people to think about the sea. It told a Twitter user in a comment that,

“The aircraft was doing a planned and necessary after maintenance functional check flight, and took this opportunity for raising awareness to marine conservation causes.”

9H-MIP is a treasured part of the fleet

Despite the initial mixed reactions, Hi Fly carried out its flight with respect to safety. Typically, aircraft should fly no lower than 500ft above people, which is just over 150 meters. In this case, 9H-MIP was well above that altitude.

A380 Hi Fly on ground
9H-MIP is a treasured part of the fleet. Photo: Steve Lynes via Wikimedia Commons

This is an event that will no doubt be remembered fondly in the airline and aircraft’s history. The aircraft is ex-Singapore Airlines, who leased it back in 2008. The plane enjoyed nearly 10 years with Singapore Airlines before it was stored in 2017. It was in July 2018 that Hi Fly acquired the aircraft, and it has been a faithful part of its fleet ever since.

Did you see 9H-MIP flying low in the Algarve this week? Let us know your thoughts about this story in the comments.