The World’s Coolest Airline Stunts

In today’s competitive market, airlines often pour time and resources into high profile advertising campaigns to win customers. This can result in carriers pulling off daring stunts, with Emirates being one carrier that is no stranger to a show-stopping performance.

Emirates, Airbus A380, August Schedule
Emirates has been in the headlines for a jaw-dropping ad. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The highest and most recent stunt

Regular readers of Simple Flying will be aware of a daring advertisement released by UAE flag carrier Emirates over the weekend. The airline’s Dubai home is the location of the world’s tallest building, namely the 828-meter high Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010.

As such, what better way for Emirates to make a bold statement with a strong connection to its homeland than to film an advert on the top of the colossal neo-futuristic skyscraper. It ran the campaign to celebrate the UAE being moved to the UK’s amber list.

The ad, as seen above, depicts US stuntwoman Nicole Smith-Ludvik atop the structure in an Emirates uniform, unveiling a series of placards commemorating the UAE’s re-listing. With the slogan “We’re on top of the world,” there could hardly be a better location for it. When the camera pans out, it is scarcely believable to see her 828 meters in the air.

Burj Khalifa
Emirates the Burj Khalifa’s presence in Dubai to great effect in its ad. Image: Emirates

However, Emirates released a behind-the-scenes video the day after revealing the extensive safety procedures behind the jaw-dropping 30-second clip. Despite thoughts that Emirates had used a green screen, the carrier confined that the stunt was genuine, and required more than an hour of climbing to reach the top to make the unforgettable ad.

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Jetpacks + A380 = the world’s coolest formation flight?

As it happens, Emirates is actually no stranger to high-octane stunts in Dubai. Indeed, Simple Flying spent time earlier this year looking back on what must be the world’s most contrasting formation flight, in terms of the sizes of the aircraft involved.

While the Airbus A380 has proved something of a white elephant for several of its operators, Emirates prides itself on having by far the world’s largest superjumbo fleet. As such, it was no surprise to see the carrier deploy one of the type in a formation flight in November 2015. However, what was surprising was what, or rather who, it flew with.

Emirates A380 Jetpack
The two jetpacks make for a striking contrast with the A380. Photo: XDubai via Emirates Media Centre

As seen in the photo above, the superjumbo flew alongside none other than a pair of jetpack-propelled pilots from the local Jetman Dubai stunt team. Extensive planning went into ensuring that the flight ran smoothly, and the result was stunning. Adel Al Redha, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at Emirates, 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.”

Stunning Middle East flypasts

Staying with Emirates for one final noteworthy event, the airline used another of its A380s to open the Dubai Airshow in 2019. It did so with an impressive low flypast at an altitude of just 1,000 feet. The Fursan display team closely trailed the mighty superjumbo.

Bahrain Grand Prix Flyover Gulf Air Boeing 787 Getty
A Gulf Air Boeing 787 kicked off last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix in stunning fashion. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Middle East, flyovers have become customary at Formula One motor races in the region. One such example of this occurred last November in Bahrain, when a Gulf Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flew over before the start, as seen above.

This year’s Formula One season also began in Bahrain, with the traditional flyover having a more sustainable aspect to it. Specifically, Gulf Air branded the spectacle a ‘lower emission flypast,’ as the jet used Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The airline explained that:

“Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel™ provides an immediate solution for reducing the carbon emissions of flying. In neat form and over the life cycle, its use results in up to 80% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel.”

Etihad Abu Dhabi F1 Flypast Getty
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has also seen several spectacular flypasts over the years. This one involved an Etihad A380 and the Al Fursan display team. Photo: Getty Images

South African stadium flyovers

Elsewhere in the world, South Africa has also built up a reputation for spectacular stadium flyovers at sporting venues. Arguably the most notable of these happened just before the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

As seen around two minutes into the video above, a South African Airways Boeing 747 swooped over the packed grandstands with its underside bearing the words “good luck Bokke.” This was a spectacular way to get the country fired up for the match against New Zealand. South Africa won the final, which became a key part of its post-apartheid healing.

South African Airways Boeing 747-300 Getty
An SAA 747 made a spectacular flypast at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. Photo: Getty Images

More recently, South African Airways also sent two of its Airbus A340s to fly in close formation over Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, where the 2019 presidential inauguration took place. Flanked by a display team, it made for an unbelievable sight.

Commemorating special occasions

Of course, airlines don’t need there to be an advertising campaign or a big sporting event for them to pull out all the stops with impressive formation flights. Indeed, British Airways celebrated 100 years of operations in patriotic fashion with a flypast with the famous Red Arrows display team at the 2019 Royal Internation Air Tattoo (RIAT).

The World’s Coolest Airline Stunts
Airbus’s spectacular 50th-anniversary formation flight with Patrouille de France. Photo: Airbus

Finally, visually impressive formation flights are also something that manufacturers can get involved with as well as airlines themselves. Indeed, as seen above, Airbus took to the skies in May 2019 with one plane from each of its commercial aircraft families. The Patrouille de France display team trailed the impressive formation flight.

Which of these amazing stunts is your favorite? Can you think of any others? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!