An A320neo, A 737 MAX, And 2 A380s: Bringing The UAE’s Airlines Together

Just under three years ago, a particularly special flypast took place in the United Arab Emirates. All four of the UAE’s airlines came together to celebrate the country’s 47th National Day, which occurred on the Year of Zayed, celebrating 100 years since the birth of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country’s founder.

Emirates, UAE National Day, Formation Flight, Airbus A380
All four UAE carriers came together in formation almost three years ago. Photo: Emirates

The UAE is no stranger to a good flypast. There are regular events such as opening the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the bi-annual Dubai Airshow. Then there are the more ad-hoc ones like Dubai’s Jetpack flyby and the Expo 2020 flyby more recently. However, one of the best involved four airlines flying everything from an acrobatic jet all the way up to two giant Airbus A380s.

What happened?

The flypast took place on December 2nd, 2018. Four commercial aircraft gathered at the Dubai World Central (DWC) Airport to the south of the city, alongside the Al Fursan aerobatic display team from the UAE’s Air Force.

The commercial aircraft involved were,

  • A flydubai Boeing 737 MAX 8 (callsign: Zayed 1)
  • An Air Arabia Airbus A320 (callsign: Zayed 2)
  • An Etihad Airways Airbus A380 (callsign: Zayed 3)
  • An Emirates Airbus A380 (callsign: Zayed 4)

Each of the aircraft had some deals applied to celebrate the Year of Zayed.

Emirates, UAE National Day, Formation Flight, Airbus A380
The four aircraft all set off from Dubai World Central Airport at around 13:00 local time. Photo: Emirates

Taking to the skies

The first aircraft took off from DWC at 13:00 and heading to a holding position while the remaining aircraft took off. Each aircraft was separated by 1,000 feet, with the Boeing 737 MAX at 2,000 feet and the Emirates A380 at 5,000 feet.

Over the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, the aircraft lined up, adjusting their speed and altitude to reach the planned flypast formation. Just 300 feet separated each aircraft for the flypast portion of the flight, with the flydubai Boeing 737 MAX at just 1,000 feet, with the Emirates A380 flying at 1,900 feet. The formation then flew past Ras Al Khaimah, Um Al Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai, and then Abu Dhabi.

Emirates, UAE National Day, Formation Flight, Airbus A380
Just 300 feet separated the aircraft during the flight. Photo: Emirates

Months of preparation

It took months to prepare for the flight to go ahead, with many agencies involved in delivering the mission. Obviously, the airlines and the aviation authority were involved, as were several other agencies. The route was planned in the months before the flight, taking air traffic and potential weather into account.

There was also a lot of practice for the big show before it went ahead. Multiple flight simulation exercises were carried out, so pilots were prepared for every eventuality. A rehearsal flight was also carried out a month earlier, on November 8th. This was monitored by helicopters and a chase plane. For both the rehearsal and the actual flight, the airspace of the flight path was closed to all other traffic – not the most straightforward task in the UAE’s busy airspace.

Emirates, UAE National Day, Formation Flight, Airbus A380
The formation flight flew past key UAE landmarks. Photo: Emirates

Commenting at the time, CEO of Emirates, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said,

“This ground-breaking initiative showcases how unity and a shared vision can achieve outstanding results. I am immensely proud of all of the teams across every airline, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, and all the organisations who came together to plan and execute today’s unprecedented flight formation which will go down as an extraordinary moment for UAE civil aviation.”

Emirates prepared a video about the achievement, which can be seen here:

Did you see the special UAE National Day formation flight in 2018? Let us know in the comments!