Thousands witness aerial thrills and a new FAI champion
High-flying success at Al Ain Airshow 2011
AL AIN // An estimated 60,000 spectators craned their necks skywards for some gravity-defying moments of brilliance at the Al Ain Aerobatic Show this weekend.
A number of aerial and ground displays thrilled crowds at the two-day event including performances by aeroplanes, a jet-propelled lorry, motorcycles, model aeroplanes and helicopters, to name a few.
The ninth edition of the show featured more than 25 aircraft, and some of the planet’s best aerobatic and formation teams.
Taking centre stage was the multi-discipline Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Desert Challenge, which saw six of the world’s best pilots flying in classic and freestyle competition formats.
They were joined by fighters from the UAE Air Force, aerobatic squadrons from the Turkish Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force, Team Viper’s Hawker Hunter supersonic fighter jets, and many of the world’s best solo pilots, including Abu Dhabi ambassador Hannes Arch.
The FAI Desert Challenge came to a close yesterday, too. The Spanish pilot Castor Fantoba was crowned the champion after two days of competition. Flying a Sukhoi 26, the Spaniard recorded an overall score of 70.85 per cent, just 1.82 marks ahead of second place Gerald Cooper in his CAP 232.
Fantoba’s triumph came after successfully completing three demanding rounds, incorporating two compulsory sections and one freestyle flight, which were rated by an international panel of judges, according to FAI criteria.
“Winning the first ever FAI Desert Challenge, and against such high-quality competition, is a great personal achievement and one that I’m very proud of,” said Fantoba. “I’ve had an excellent time visiting Al Ain and experiencing this beautiful country, both on the ground and in the sky. Winning this title rounds everything off perfectly.”
Scoring of the six pilots, all top-10 FAI event rankers in the past two years, was done in real time. They were allowed only one routine run per discipline, giving them a limited window to impress the judging panel and crowds with their aerial skills, and leaving no room for error.
“It was a very tight competition between some of the world’s best pilots, but Castor Fantoba made the least errors and flew the second compulsory section particularly well, which gave him the edge,” said John Gaillard, the chief judge for the FAI at the show. “Castor is a great pilot, very entertaining and fully deserving of the title of FAI Desert Challenge champion.”