Event Photography – Al Ain Air Championship 2015

I returned to the United Arab Emirates in mid-December to act as the event photographer at the Al Ain Air Championship 2015 – my final outing of the year.  The show had been rebranded from the Al Ain Aerobatic Show since the last time it was held in late-November 2013, and this subtle change to the presentation of the event certainly pulled the crowds in over the final two days (of three) of competition.

That was not the only change of title, with my previous two adventures to Al Ain having been to act purely as the dedicated aviation photographer at the show.  As a consequence, this time most of my aeroplane snapping took place during the practice days and the first public day.

For those not familiar with the UAE, Al Ain lies around 140km due east of Abu Dhabi, on the border with Oman.  As is usually the case, the weather was almost perfect throughout, with blue skies and a (largely) gentle breeze keeping temperatures very pleasant.

Away from the displays in the air, there was plenty to see and do on the ground with a good mix of types on static display from the United Arab Emirates Air Force & Air Defence, two different sets of driving demos, as well as freestyle dirt & quad bike demos, a whole raft of activities in the ‘village’, the opportunity to meet the pilots and players from Al Ain Football Club (including former Liverpool player Ryan Babel), plus an extended programme of events including evening hot air balloon ‘glows’ and various musical performances across the three days.  There really was something for everyone.

With the overall Al Ain Air Championship winner determined by a combination of scores from a prestigious judging panel and votes from the public, the overall crown was narrowly taken by the United Arab Emirates’ national display team, Fursan Al Emarat, beating the Bravo 3 Repsol team of Castor Fantoba and Juan Velarde by just 0.01 points.  The Breitling Wingwalkers were back in third, with Rich Goodwin in fourth.

“This year has been a spectacular for us and the new championship format has proved to be a success. We’ve had over 50,000 visitors at the event and this has been beyond our expectations. We are proud to have hosted this event in Al Ain. We’d like to take this opportunity and congratulate Fursan Al Emarat, the Grand Champion of Al Ain Air Championship 2015 and also thank all the participating teams for an impressive line-up of acts that they performed. We look forward to the next edition and hope to offer the visitors a memorable experience again,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director of Tourism Sector, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.

Additionally, Breitling sponsored a series of ‘Style Awards’.  Bravo 3 Repsol won the ‘Power’ category, gliderFX the ‘Grace’ category, the Breitling Wingwalkers won the ‘Wow Factor’ category (but elected to give their prize – a Breitling watch – to the second-placed act in that category, Rich Goodwin), with Fursan Al Emarat taking the ‘Pride’ category.

While still to be confirmed, it is anticipated that the next edition of the Al Ain Air Championship will take place in 2017.

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