High Flying Dubai
By Justin Johny
Location: Dubai, UAE

Editors Note:  While some of us at Gulf Vantage were running around in the desert on the UAE National Day, Gulf Vantage contributors Justin and Praveen were back in the city checking out the 3rd Dubai International Parachuting Championship & Gulf Cup.

So there I was, with a funny mix of emotions, back to the place from where I ran away, just six months ago: Dubai.  There was myself, a student on a semester break and on the verge of bankruptcy, and also two friends: Praveen, who was on a job hunt and in a similar situation, and Marios, a friend on a short visit en-route to a bankrupt Greece.  Between the three of us we had a lot of time on hand and many possible things to do within the city.  And on the UAE’s 40th National Day, one of those choices was the 3rd Dubai International Parachuting Championship (29 November – 10 December, 2011).  In the years that I have been in Dubai I hadn’t paid attention to the previous editions of this event and the proceedings of the day left me wondering: had I seen it all in Dubai?

Getting geared up

Getting geared up

On that afternoon Praveen and I drove over to meet Marios at the waterfront property close to Jumeirah Beach Residences that was developed specifically for the championship. The infrastructure,  which included a permanent building for the event, a temporary runway and a covered parking facility, was pretty impressive—so says Marios, who happens to be a pro sky diver and hence a better judge. The day that I chose to catch the show was the last day of the event, which meant I had already missed some of the crazy formations and stunts performed, which Praveen and Marios had already seen. But fortunately for me, the divers had put together two teams for some farewell formations.  On the ground meticulous planning had started as the two large teams practiced their moves with intent, exercises which looked rather funny.  After putting on a show on the ground the divers made way to their respective planes and soon the machines were specks in the sky.

Eager eyes scanned the sky for any signs of the two teams…and somewhere in the distance there was a flurry of action.  No, it was not the divers.  Seven jets from the UAE air force ripped through the sky, leaving most of us with our jaws wide open.  This was followed by some of the best air formations I have ever seen. The seven jets created the UAE flag on the noon sky with aptly coloured smoke, along with other smoke figures which befit the 40th National Day celebration.  Once the pilots had made sure that the people had gaped long enough at their expertise, the jets screamed adieu and the spectators who had managed to get their jaws back in place acknowledged the efforts in a spirited fashion.

3rd Dubai International Parachuting Championship

Crowds enjoying the airshow

We were still reeling from what we had just witnessed when we tilted our heads to the heavens as the MC screamed, “there they are!”  Dots of black scattered across the sky and then came together to form the number 40, again in accordance with the holiday. For those looking for pictorial evidence of this act, I apologize; the lens on my camera was just not good enough to capture a photo at that distance. The men and women in black glided their way back to applauding spectators. Soon enough the second team was off their plane. Crafting their way through the sky, they made a massive canopy formation, about eighteen of them gliding over and under each other to form a massive floating diamond. The setting sun at times twinkled off their chutes. The sheer sight of seeing so many of them land together, with the setting sun as their backdrop, was inspiringly peaceful, and at the same time exhilarating. I noticed conversations amongst the spectators of how and when they wanted do a tandem jump sparked off as the last of the divers were safely on land.

The peaceful sunset was again disturbed by a distant rumble that was fast approaching. Suddenly Zoltan Veres and two others in their MXS’s appeared above the skyscrapers. For those who are scratching their heads in wonderment, Zoltan Veres is the World Champion Flying Ace in the Aero GP series for the fourth time this year and holds five Guinness World records.  The pictures will give you a sense of what he does best and then I suggest to Google him for more.

Zoltan Veres

Zoltan Veres low flying acrobatics

The three single seaters did some amazing stunts together and then Zoltan took centre stage. Words cannot do justice to experience the flyer’s acrobatics in person but here’s an attempt: zipping along at 10 feet off ground and his plane was upside down, then from about 400 meters up he goes on a freefall and only pulls back up when he is about 20 meters from the sea, and then he was flying with his wing tipped about 8 feet off the ground.  Do yourself a favour, watch any of his videos.

I hope you remember the guys and gals who had their jaws wide open; now their tongues were on the floor. Good bye for the guys in the MXS’s meant two of the aircraft smearing the sky with a smoke heart and one throwing in an arrow right through the centre.

I had missed the main reason why the sky divers from around the world had journeyed to Dubai–the actual competition and I really do regret it.  I would have loved to have written about the crazy precision landings, swoops, and endless formations within a set time limit, but I can’t.  Maybe next year.  But for a guy who went just for a free event to get some clicks, I came back with more than I could have ever asked for.

After the long day and over a drink I couldn’t help but marvel: seven years and nine months in this place that I fondly call the sand pit, it still manages to throw something completely new at me, and it definitely throws it in style.

Click on the thumbnails below to see more photos of the event.