x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Spectacular sight as Etihad aircraft performs fly-by over Abu Dhabi Corniche

The fly-by was just one of the many events taking place along the Corniche to commemorate Eithad’s 10th anniversary.

Etihad Airway's Airbus A340-500 cruises at a low altitude of no more than 600 feet over the Abu Dhabi corniche to mark the airline's 10-year anniversary. Pawan Singh / The National
Etihad Airway's Airbus A340-500 cruises at a low altitude of no more than 600 feet over the Abu Dhabi corniche to mark the airline's 10-year anniversary. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Strollers, runners and bikers along Abu Dhabi’s Corniche were treated to more than a picturesque sunset on Sunday afternoon.

Those who chose to satisfy their curiosity after hearing a rumble in the air saw a 380-tonne passenger jet airliner cruising at an altitude of no more than 600 feet.

The low-flying Airbus A340-500, part of Etihad Airway’s fleet, was taking part in the airline’s 10-year anniversary celebration.

“Flying at 600 feet is something unique for a plane this big,” said Ali Al Dhanhani, 36, who had known about the event beforehand.

“My son Mohammed, who is crazy about planes, saw a picture of one in the newspaper and asked me what it was, ” said the Emirati father-of-four.

After getting his older sister to help him read the article about the planned fly-over, six-year-old Mohammed insisted his father take him and his siblings to see it.

Mr Al Dhanhani’s interest was piqued when he read of how close the 375-passenger Etihad airliner would be flying over him.

“I always wanted to be a pilot myself but sadly couldn’t because of colour blindness,” said the software engineer, who appreciated the skill it took for the pilot to fly a plane so low.

The fly-by was just one of the many events taking place along the Corniche to commemorate Eithad’s first decade of operation.

The airline held a special function on the breakwater which included traditional Emirati music, a Dhow sailboat parade, a live band and a firework finale.

Attending the event was Sheikh Hamad bin Zayed, managing director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chairman of Dubai Airports, and James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways.

“In just one decade we have moved from a start-up airline to one that is now firmly established on the world stage as a safe, profitable and high-quality business,” said Mr Hogan.

Mr Hogan also used the event to stress the importance of the airline’s earnings, saying Etihad had become profitable in its eighth year.

“In 2012 we contributed more than US$10 billion [Dh36.73 billion] to the UAE’S gross domestic product – that’s more than 10 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s non-oil GDP.”

Mr Hogan said the key to Etihad Airways rapid success was undoubtedly its more than 16,500 employees from over 130 countries.

“I genuinely cannot think of a more multi-cultural business than Etihad Airways,” he said. He also spoke about Etihad’s Emirati employees, who hold a special place in the company.

“As the national airline of the UAE, Emirati colleagues will always have a special and increasingly important role to play in bringing alive our traditional Arabic heritage.”

Attending the celebration was one of Etihad’s future Emirati pilots, 22-year-old Ahmed Al Awadhi.

Enrolled in Etihad’s cadet programme, Mr Al Awadhi’s love affair with flying began at the age of four, when his uncle managed to get him into the cockpit of a jetliner.

“I have been hooked since and my hobby was the sky,” he said.

“I always used to write, ‘If you love to fly love the holy sky’.”

In his second year of a Bachelors of Science in Aviation at Abu Dhabi University, he says the programme is rewarding but demanding.

“We see about 40 new faces every four to six months, which is always tough.”

With a year left for his degree and another eight months of ground training in Al Ain to follow, the cadet is still at least a year and a half away from taking his first flight.

“It will fly by,” he said with a huge grin on his face.

“And then, inshallah, I will be the one piloting these fly-overs.”

talsubaihi@thenational.ae