Please join Bronco Demo Team on an epic trip to the Al Ain Air Championship in the United Arab Emirates!

The Al Ain Air Championship is a three-day aerobatic style championship. Eight to ten invited aerobatic teams from various countries around the world - including military flying aces and civilian daredevils - square off to impress the judges, win the hearts of fans and are crowned Grand Champion of the skies of Al Ain.

Bronco Demo Team was honored to be one of the teams to participate in the 11th Championship. This involved flying the Bronco over to the UAE from our Belgian home base. Over a period of 16 days a total distance of more than 6600 nm was covered in a total flying time of some 33,5 hrs. The ferry was completed without a hitch, not a mean feat for a forty four year old lady.

What follows is a day-to-day account of the fantastic adventure.

Day 1: Wevelgem (Belgium) to Split (Croatia)

On Saturday December 12th, the Bronco with Tony & Edith on board departed to Al Ain ahead of the incoming bad weather over Europe. The routing took them via Lake Leman, Geneva, passing just beside the Mont Blanc, cruising along the Italian Riviera, overflying Tuscany and crossing the Adriatic Sea to a first scheduled night stop in Split, Croatia.

Day 2: Split (Croatia) to Kos (Greece)

The next morning the trip continued eastward along the Croatian shores, past Dubrovnik, overhead Tirana, Albania, crossing the length of Aegean Sea to Kos, Greece. Initially it was planned to continue to Aqaba, Jordan, but due to thunderstorms forecast over Egypt that afternoon a decision was made to stay the night at Kos.

Day 3: Kos (Greece) to Aqaba (Jordan)

Shortly after a late morning departure under typical Greek blue skies, the Bronco passed overhead Rhodos before the start of a long overwater trek in Cyprus airspace. Once in Egypt airspace a re-routing via the overhead of Cairo followed, but alas we sadly missed seeing the pyramids of Gizeh due to haze and cloud cover. Overflying the gulf of Suez was an added bonus before a let down through a broken cloud layer over the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan. The Bronco spending the night under palm trees at the home base of the Royal Jordanian Falcons in Aqaba.

Day 4: Aqaba (Jordan) to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) to Al Ain (Emirates)
Not long after take-off and after overflying beautiful Wadi Rum the Bronco crossed the border with Saudi Arabia (clearly marked in the desert sand with a fence) en route to Riyadh. After a refuelling stop on the GA ramp amongst some local ‘private’ airplanes, the journey continued via Bahrain, Doha and the Persian Gulf before reaching the final destination Al Ain, but only after negotiating some serious looking thunderstorm over Abu Dhabi!

In the meantime for cheerleaders, Ruth and Jessie, the Al Ain adventure had started that same Tuesday evening with an Emirates flight from Amsterdam to Dubai.

Day 5: Al Ain rehearsals

After arrival in Dubai on Wednesday, our cheerleaders decided on a short stop over in Dubai city before continuing to the final destination Al Ain with the “Airbus A380” bus. The same day Tony practiced his flying display for the upcoming airshow competition. In the evening the crew had a nice dinner in the hotel together with some of the other participants.

Days 6-7-8: the Al Ain Air Championship

During the three airshow days it the weather was perfect to get some serious stunts off the ground and in the air. Tony was the first one to show the best abilities of his Bronco to the judges and amazed the crowd during a very controlled flying display. The dirndl ladies did also their best to show the pride and grace of the Bronco Demo Team on the ground.

During the day the other teams followed. The GliderFX Team is well known for its aerobatic performance with a glider, some of their tricks include a ‘roll on tow’ and letting a parachutist zero-G eject out of the glider during the display.
After the first day it was clear there was a fierce competition between Richard Goodwin in his beefed-up Pitts (UK), Bravo 3 Repsol Team with two Sukhoi 26’s (Spain), Artur Keilak XA41 (Poland), all-time favourites the Breitling Wingwalkers and of course the national pride of the UAE, Al Fursan!

Tony and the ladies enjoyed every minute of this superb show. We saw nose rolls, loops, gripping aerobatic stunts, drifting cars, hair raising stunts, mesmerizing aerobatics and a Championship Village buzzing with lively activities. We had three incredible days with incredible people! We were in love!

Saturday evening, after all cards had been played, the teams, organizations and sponsors where invited to a great Gala Dinner where the price giving took place. Al Fursan deservedly won the Grand Prize and “Pride” award. Breitling Wingwalkers were awarded the “Wow” award, but their prize - a Breitling watch - was fairly granted to runner-up Richard Goodwin. Bravo 3 Repsol Team won the “Power” award. The “Grace” award was for the spectacular GliderFX Team. Congratulations to all the winning teams!

Day 9: A well deserved rest day…

Sunday Ruth & Jessie traveled back home by airline.

Day 10: Al Ain (UAE) – Aqaba (Jordan)

After an early morning departure from Al Ain and after overflying part of the Persian Gulf visibility deteriorated considerably once overland in Saudi airspace. It proved that there was not only a lot of sand on the ground, but also in the air this time. It finely coated the Bronco with a thin layer of brown dust. A scheduled stop for fuel was planned at Gassim (Saudi Arabia) and thanks to Ali and his kind colleagues in the control tower we were soon on the way to Aqaba, where we decided to stay a couple of days enjoying the sun and a good rest during the Christmas holidays...

Day 11-15: Aqaba (Jordan) – Split (Croatia)

After a 4 day rest in sunny and warm Aqaba, Jordan, day 2 of the flight back saw us crossing Egypt from Taba to El Arish, passing not far from the very spot where a cowardly terrorist attack brought down Metrojet Flight 9268 just one month before. Proceeding across the Mediterranean to Kos in Greece. At Kos all turn-around records were broken with a very quick fuel stop - only 45 minutes from wheels on the ground till airborne again - thanks to a very efficient airport and handling agent. This time we flew over most of Greece's mainland, via Albania and Montenegro back to Split, Croatia, landing only minutes before sunset. It had been a successful day indeed!

Day 16: Back home

Day 3 of the homebound flight started with an on time departure from Split, cruising along the Croatian coast over widespread fog across the Adriatic till well over land in Italy. What then followed was a most magical crossing of the Alps from Bolzano to Zurich, passing within eyesight of Villingen-Schwenningen - where this very Bronco had spent most of it's time during the last 25 years – then via Strassbourg for the final home stretch all in brilliant VMC.

A great adventure successfully concluded!

We would like to thank the organizer Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), WORLDSPORT Arabia, TSA Consulting Ltd, Dave Walton, Karl Drage, Katsuhiko Tokunaga and all who were involved producing such a great airshow and to make this fantastic experience possible!


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