National symbol takes to the skies

The world's largest aerial flag flew over the capital in celebration of National Day.

Abu Dhabi - December 2, 2008: A Falcon Aviation Services Bell 412 Helicopter tows the world's largest 
aerial banner which is a UAE National Flag, along the Abu Dhabi corniche and foreshore during National day. ( Philip Cheung / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PC0004-Flag.JPG
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ABU DHABI // The world's largest aerial flag flew over the capital yesterday in celebration of National Day. The 4,600 square metre flag was seen by hundreds of residents on the Corniche to enjoy the sunshine and see the rowing races. It is the second National Day in succession the giant flag, towed by a Bell 412 helicopter, has been carried above the capital. Bong Calleja, 48, a Filipino purchasing assistant who lives in Dubai, said seeing the flag made him feel proud.

"Most of the people thought it was amazing," said Mr Calleja, who has lived in the UAE for 18 years and visited Abu Dhabi for the National Day celebrations. "I felt a patriotism the same as I feel when I see the Philippine flag on Independence Day," he said. "I love the UAE because I've been here so long." Also impressed was Saravanan Nagarathinam, 30, an executive from India, who travelled from his home in Khalifa City with his wife to watch events on the Corniche.

"We could see it from a long way," he said. "It was really very impressive. It was so exciting to see the flag. Definitely this brings unity, to see people celebrating National Day in this way." The flag was sponsored by Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi International Marine and Sports Club and Falcon Aviation Services, which operated the helicopter. Faisal al Rawas, Falcon Aviation's vice president for sales and marketing, said taking the flag into the air was "a unique way" to mark National Day.

"This is the way we show our appreciation to the UAE on National Day," he said. During the year, the flag is kept in a hangar at Al Bateen airbase. Before being lifted into the air, it has to be taken to an island off Abu Dhabi where it is unfurled. "They need a big place so we do it from there," Mr Rawas said.