Tributes as pilot behind first Emirates flight in 1985 dies

Captain Fazle Ghani was seconded from Pakistan International Airlines to help Dubai in setting up its first airline

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Tributes have been paid to an airline pilot who was behind the first Emirates flight in October 1985.

Fazle Ghani, who died in Pakistan after a long illness, was in the cockpit supervising pilots on the airline's inaugural service to Karachi 36 years ago.

The crew and about 100 personnel were seconded from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to help the emirate set up its now famous airline.

PIA chief executive Arshad Malik announced the news of Ghani’s death at the weekend.

“Pride of Pakistan, aviation Capt Fazle Ghani, passed away after a prolonged illness," he wrote on Twitter.

The first Emirates aircraft – an Airbus A300 and a Boeing 737 – arrived in Dubai on October 20 on lease from Pakistan International Airlines, which provided crucial assistance to the new airline.

"On the 18th of October, a group of 100 pilots, flight and aircraft engineers, maintenance staff, among others, all came to Dubai to initiate the planning stages, and we began test flights from then on to ensure everything would operate to plan," Ghani said of the inaugural EK600 flight in a previous interview.

The first flight took off at about 11.45am from Dubai. Two other flights bound for Mumbai and New Delhi took off on the same day.

Ghani was the airline's first chief pilot and the team lead for inaugural operations.

After helping to set up Emirates and train the airline's first pilots, Ghani took the decision to return to PIA.

"I was also tasked to train UAE national pilots," he said. "They were trained in Dubai and got their commercial licences from the Civil Aviation Authority in Pakistan.

"We had some great memories from the first flight. We pushed back and took off on time, and this signalled a great achievement for the airline in such a short period of time."

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Updated: November 01, 2021, 8:48 AM