When Sharjah’s first flight touched down - 90 years ago

The Imperial Airways jet made a stop in October 1932 as part of a trip from Gwadar airport to the UK

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Long an important stop on the trade routes between Europe and Asia, the UAE has become one of the world’s leading aviation centres.

Home to the busiest international airport in the world and several of the most-flown international airline routes, it also benefits from its geographical location – with more than two thirds of the world’s population less than an eight-hour flight away.

And while most people today will fly to Dubai International Airport, since the early days, it was the emirate of Sharjah that played a pivotal role in the country’s aviation scene.

The eastern emirate welcomed its first flight in October 1932.

It was 90 years ago that Imperial Airways touched down in Sharjah with its Hannibal Class Handley Page HP42 airliner, nicknamed Hanno.

The Imperial Airways Hannibal Class Handley Page HP42 passenger plane Hanno, surrounded by an armed guard provided by the Sheikkh of Sharjah during a refuelling stop at Kuwait.   (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Landing in the country on October 5, the four-engined biplane was typical of the passenger aircraft of those days.

Characterised by its size and capability of flying relatively long distances, the aircraft allowed Imperial Airways – the forerunner of British Airways – to operate international fights between the UK, India and Australia.

The first of these flights landed at Sharjah Airport when the emirates was part of the Trucial States.

Surrounded by an armed guard provided by the Sheikh of Sharjah, the flight touched down to refuel. This stop helped to connect the East and the West, with pilots able to refuel and continue flying towards India or the UK on routes that took about five days to complete.

Sharjah’s role in the country’s aviation scene cannot be underestimated. The city was a significant stopover on Imperial Airways' routes until the airline ceased operations in 1939.

As well as being home to Al Mahatta, the UAE’s first airport, Sharjah was also where the nation's first hotel opened. With only nine bedrooms and water supplied by donkey caravan, the BOAC Rest House was also home to the country’s first cinema.

The BOAC Rest House was the first hotel in the country, opening at a Sharjah airfield in 1932. Wam

Air Arabia was also formed in Sharjah, when in 2003 it became the country’s first low-cost airline.

And while neighbouring Dubai is today the country's big player when it comes to aviation, it was Abu Dhabi that welcomed the country’s first flight – with the arrival of an international flight on June 19, 1929.

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Updated: April 01, 2022, 6:01 PM