Aviation history will be made this summer when a newly-formed Middle Eastern aerobatics display team makes its European debut at a UK airshow.
Al Fursan – The Knights – from the United Arab Emirates Air Force will display at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on July 7-8.
Featuring seven Alenia Aermacchi MB-339A Italian trainer aircraft, the team first performed at the Dubai Airshow in November to mark the UAE's 40th anniversary. The fighter pilots were trained in formation flying by the Italian Air Force display team the Frecce Tricolori, who also fly the same aircraft.
Alan Peaford, Editor-in-Chief, Arabian Aerospace magazine said: “The Al Fursan team surprised everybody at the Dubai Airshow in November when it made its first appearance with an incredible performance. The team's international debut at Bahrain stole the show.
“Coming to the UK for the Air Tattoo is a major step up for the team and really puts the UAE pilots in front of a world audience. I believe they will surprise people with their skills and professionalism. We have seen what the UAE has done to change world perception in football, golf and horseracing – I think they might be about to do the same in the world of display flying.”
The Al Fursan aircraft are painted predominantly in black and gold to represent the desert's golden sands and the black oil which lies beneath it. Smoke generators produce red, green, white and black smoke to represent the colours of the national flag.
Al Fursan team leader Lt Col Nasser Ahmad said: "The Al Fursan pilots and their Director, Brigadier staff pilot Khaled Omar, are privileged to represent their country at the world's largest military airshow. For us, the Air Tattoo offers an important opportunity to exchange ideas, build relations and share our experience with other military display teams. It will be an honour to perform our aerobatic display in the UK in July which we dedicate to our new British and European friends. Equally, the Al Fursan team will be very proud to paint the lovely British sky with the colours of the UAE flag."
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, head of the RAF, said he was pleased to welcome his Arab partners. He said: “I am delighted that Al Fursan has agreed to perform at this summer's Air Tattoo. This will be the team's first display in Europe and I can think of no better place for the team to demonstrate their flying prowess than at one of the world's largest military airshows.”
Al Fursan will join a number of other international aerobatic display teams at this summer's Air Tattoo, including the Patrouille Suisse.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said: “During the past 46 years, the Red Arrows team has performed more than 4,300 displays, projecting both the professionalism and capability of the Royal Air Force around the globe. That such a fledgling display team as Al Fursan, representing a comparatively young nation, should have the enthusiasm and confidence to make its European flying debut on such a significant stage speaks volumes. We are honoured to have been chosen by the UAE Air Force as the European airshow at which to demonstrate its military pilots' close formation aerobatic skills."
The Air Tattoo is staged annually in support of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. Countries that have already confirmed they will be sending aircraft to the airshow include Brazil, Hungary, France, the US, Switzerland, Poland and Latvia.
Special Air Tattoo Earlybird tickets, priced £34, are available until the end of March from airtattoo.com or by calling 0800 107 1940. All accompanied under-16s go free. Free parking.