Camel Tour Stage 1: Al Ain Aerobatic Show, United Arab Emirates

Filed in Airshows, Team News by on 2nd Dec 2013

by Pete Wells

Our Middle Eastern tour started for me at our last European show, The Hamilton world Masters near Saint Tropez. We had to get one of our planes back to the UK and packed in a container the day after our last pyro display.I had already packed our spare plane and spares package up.

We set out very early with two Garmin failures which thankfully rectified themselves and despite a terrible forecast made it back by 14.30 local having had a pretty uneventful flight. Then it was all hands on the deck and we dismantled G-SWIP inhibited the engine and loaded it on our handling system.

Early the following morning everything was ready to go and the container was lifted away on schedule. I then concentrated on shipping our pyros into both the UAE and Bahrain.

No one could have prepared me for the difficulty I would experience doing this and even now having succeeded I’m not sure how we achieved this. When I had signed a contract with Huawei for a sponsorship deal for Al Ain and ordered shirts logos for planes and flying suits I thought everything was pretty much sorted except the pyros.

Shipping planes is always a risky business but as far as I was aware the planes were approaching the UAE by ship and even the pyro shipping was progressing. Then I had a bomb shell of a phone call!
With only 7 days until we were due to fly out I discovered our container was still on the docks at Folkestone. We did not even have time to fly them to Al Ain!

My shipping company could not explain how this “error” had happened but they did have an alternative which was frightening but our only option. We had to recover container from Folkestone drive it to Heathrow for Customs clearance and then drive it to Luxembourg to airfreight the entire container by 747 Freighter.

This we did as failure has never been an option and we could not let the show organisers down.

Amazingly our planes were the first to arrive in the UAE a couple of days later and after more hassle with the pyros everything was now in place .

The team set off for the UAE except one pilot who would join us later and we arrived very late in the evening at Al Ain.

The next day we met the other teams and joined them in a temporary hanger assembling our planes at Al Ain air base. We were slightly frustrated by a Royal flight which meant as soon as we got going we had to leave the airfield and also by the fact that all cameras were banned making Paul Johnson’s job impossible.

After a day we had one plane assembled and “logo-ed” up in Huawei livery and ground run. The second plane partially assembled .

Day two both planes were finished and one air tested. Day Three both pilots were there and both planes were flying it seemed that the battle was won. Paul even had permission to get his cameras into the air Base!!

Pyros were promised for the following day what could possibly go wrong?

We started practising but not over the airfield. Instead we flew over the beautiful rolling sand dunes.

We also took the opportunity to get some great pictures involving some of the other teams the Red Bull Matadors and the Good Year Eagles using our purpose built camera mounts with the stunning back drops.

Pyros did not materialize but were promised the following day over and over again !!

We were told just as everyone went home for the weekend the show started we could not have them unless they could be stored in an Armoury and an official letter was sent confirming this.

It was devastating getting this far and then to be scuppered at the last hurdle by bureaucracy but once again “failure not being an option” clicked in and Dave Walton managed to get airfield police to send a letter and pyros were delivered and kept under guard for the duration of the show.

Dave Bennett went off into the desert each day and signed for the days usage from their secure storage and empty tubes were counted by military to make sure everything taken had been used.

By the time the first show day arrived we had got into the routine of bus trips security and our Sponsors had explained what was expected of us and we were ready to go.

As we were displaying twice a day and also dealing with Sponsors requirements we were very busy but the whole team worked very well and everything fell into place on each display day like a well oiled machine.

As is quite often the case the show days screamed past and all too soon we were closing the Al Ain 2013 show with our pyro show.

I don’t really know why maybe because of the battles to achieve the objective but I felt a great deal of pride in the entire team because we had done exactly what was asked of us against the odds.

The after show party was a great memorable event the first evening that I was not in bed early. All teams were present and the live band and cold beer provided a great finally to the evening.

The next day planes were repacked and the team was travelling back to the UK with a feeling of satisfaction but slight anticipation of the second part of the camel tour still to come.

Many thanks to Paul for his great pictures and Dave Bennett for totally relieving me of maintenance issues and also taking on the difficult job of pyro collection.

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