RAS AL KHAIMAH // Tourism chiefs are taking to the skies in an attempt to put the emirate on the map.
Visitors can now get a bird’s-eye view of its rugged mountains, deserts, mangroves and coastal nature reserves as well as new developments on flights in a microlight aircraft that can last up to an hour.
Al Jazira Aviation Club is the company behind the flights. It has about eight 450kg planes, which can hold one passenger and a pilot, and can cruise at about 140kph.
Steven Rice, the chief executive of RAK Tourism Development Company (TDA), said he planned to make the plane a feature for visitors and that it was“one of the best ways to enjoy Ras Al Khaimah’s rich combination of natural features”.
“As we work to develop the huge tourism potential of Ras Al Khaimah and raise awareness to a much wider audience, Al Jazira Aviation Club is a great example of the type of company that can be a powerful advocate for the destination, and position Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class leisure destination.”
The club, whose members regularly fly a range of aircraft from gyrocopters to fixed wing planes and powered parachutes, can take about 200 tourists on flights a month, but chief flight instructor Capt Afaq Ahmed Khan said capacity could increase.
“We [four pilots] do around 210-230 flight hours, but if the authority helps us to market this, we could increase that to 600-700 if necessary, with increased pilot recruitment,” he said.
“Tourism is a big part of what we do. In the UAE most people don’t know about the facility and even in RAK people don’t know about us, even though they may have seen the aircraft.”
He added that support from the TDA was vital. “This has so much potential and could be to RAK as pivotal as Skydive Dubai is to Dubai.”
Abdulrahman Taha has been a pilot at the club for six months since graduating from the Fujairah Aviation Academy earlier this year.
“This is something unique for people to do in RAK,” he said. “People love to see the sights from the sky and feel the sense of high altitude. They feel like a bird, flying.”
The minimum age to fly is five years old and it is popular with families. “I’ve taken a little boy as young as six out,” Mr Taha said. “The children love it, too.”
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