x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Ain gets ready for high-flying spectacle

Over a hundred aircraft and 15 teams from four continents will be seen in actio as Aero GP makes its debut in the Middle East next month.

Wing-walkers and aerobatic teams will be among the stunts on display at the Al Ain air show from Jan 28 to 31.
Wing-walkers and aerobatic teams will be among the stunts on display at the Al Ain air show from Jan 28 to 31.

ABU DHABI // The Al Ain Aerobatic Show next month promises death-defying acts, among them stuntwomen walking on the wings of aeroplanes as they soar through the sky. The wing-walkers are part of the entertainment organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the UAE Air Force. The show's centrepiece is the Middle East debut of the Aero GP series, a racing event that has been called the Formula One of aviation.

"Our location allows us to do a very tight aerobatic circuit that seems to be very close to the public, so everyone feels it is happening for them," said Gavin Gabrielson, major events manager for ADTA. "It is very much almost a sense of being able to reach up and touch the planes as they are doing their performance." The show, which runs from Jan 28 to 31 at Al Ain International Airport, will draw more than 110 aircraft and 15 teams from four continents.

The show will begin a year-long centennial celebration of air racing. In addition to the Aero GP, gliders will perform stunts. The Russian Air Force will be part of the show for the first time, performing formation flying and dog fights. On the ground, more than 20 older model military planes will be on display. Also on hand will be the wing- walkers, who perform in the tradition of the military pilots who first attempted the stunts at the end of the First World War.

Cerina Rydälv, a member of a Scandinavian performance team, said she was looking forward to the Al Ain show. The team is based in Sweden and usually does not perform in winter. Ms Rydälv, a university student who skydives and wing-walks as a hobby, said there are a number of factors needed to pull off the stunts, including a perceptive pilot. "To be able to communicate in the air, without speaking, you must have a certain understanding for each other as well as a lot of practice," she said. "And of course you need to trust the whole team, the other girl on the other wing, the mechanic, that everybody does his or her job and has the same safety-thinking as yourself."

The Aero GP event will include a three-stage competition pitting six pilots against one another. Their events include a race around a circuit, dogfighting between two aircraft and a barnstorming show where pilots perform various stunts in the air. The GP will be broadcast on TV in 50 countries. Mark Jefferies, Andy Bickmore and the 2008 Aero GP champion Gerald Cooper, all from Britain, are among the pilots scheduled to compete.