The Airbus A380 is a conspicuous aircraft in its own right. Its sheer size holds an enigmatic majesty, turning the heads of avgeeks and the general public alike wherever it goes. Although it has been less successful as a commercial enterprise, UAE flag carrier Emirates has always retained a strong commitment to the ‘superjumbo.’

With the A380 being its flagship, Emirates took the opportunity to perform a spectacular formation flight over Dubai in November 2015. The other participants? Two jetpack pilots!

Showcasing the beauty of flight

November 5th, 2015 saw an unprecedented formation flight take place in the skies over the UAE. As Emirates reports, one aspect of this display involved one of its flagship Airbus A380s flying in two holding patterns, 4,000 feet above Dubai. While this, in itself, makes for a pleasant sight, the airline enlisted two local daredevils to add a layer of brave extravagance to the display.

Having launched from a helicopter, two flying wing pilots from the Jetman Dubai team initially hovered above the A380 at 5,500 feet. During the stunning formation flight, they performed various formations on either side of the double-decker passenger-carrying behemoth. This made for a striking contrast in size.

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Emirates stunt

The stunning formation flight took place against the spectacular backdrop of Dubai’s many skyscrapers. Photo: XDubai via Emirates Media Centre

Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer, Adel Al Redha, said at the time:

This display between man and machine celebrates the magic and beauty of flight, a feat which just over a hundred years ago would have seemed an impossible dream. It also showcases how far human vision and ambition has [pushed], and can continue to push, aviation’s boundaries.”

Extensive planning and safety efforts

The display was meticulously planned to ensure maximum safety for everyone involved. When watching footage of the flight, what one can’t see is the “painstaking planning and meticulous collaboration with an intense focus on safety” that went into making it possible.

Emirates stunt

Having launched from a helicopter, two flying wing pilots hovered around the aircraft. Photo: XDubai via Emirates Media Center

Over three months, the pilots involved even underwent simulator training to be prepared for every possible contingency during the display. According to Mr Al Redha, the following stakeholders were involved in planning the seamless formation flight.

  • General Civil Aviation Authority of the UAE.
  • Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.
  • Dubai Air Traffic Control (ATC).
  • SkyDive Dubai.
  • Aerovision.
  • Numerous departments at Emirates.
Emirates stunt

Months of planning went into ensuring that the formation flight was as safe as possible for everyone involved. Photo: XDubai via Emirates Media Centre

No stranger to stunts

Emirates isn’t the kind to shy away from going all out with sponsorships and stunts. One of its more recent stunts was at the beginning of this year, featuring a skydiver portraying a flight attendant standing on top of the world’s tallest building. An Airbus A380 then flies behind her as she holds a series of cards.

The jet flew past the Burj Khalifa at its exact height, 2,700 feet, to ensure that the plane would be right behind the stunt woman. While it looks pretty close, the giant A380 flew around half a mile away from the tower.

Emirates Ad

Emirates often goes all out to create stunning ads. Photo: Emirates

In 2013, when Qantas and Emirates signed a partnership, they publicized the alliance by getting a pair of A380s to do some low-level flying over Sydney Harbour.

The mid-morning flights from Sydney Airport scooted up the coast to Longreef on Sydney’s Northern Beaches before turning out to sea and looping around to overly Watson’s Bay and head up Sydney Harbour. The Qantas A380 was flying at 1,500 feet and the Emirates A380 slightly higher.

However, the two airlines picked the wrong day to do this. Instead of clear blue skies, March 31, 2013, was overcast, providing a fairly average backdrop to the flights.

The A380 at Emirates

Emirates is by far the world’s largest Airbus A380 operator. In August 2008, it became the second airline to fly the superjumbo commercially, after Singapore Airlines the previous October. The 119 examples currently in its fleet, according to, represent almost half of all the A380s that Airbus has ever produced.

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Emirates A380

While some airlines prematurely retired their A380s during the pandemic, Emirates has longer-term plans for the aircraft. It announced in February 2021 that it will fly the superjumbo until the mid-2030s, and went on to receive its last superjumbo in December 2021 – its 123rd overall.

As of September 9th, the airline is flying the A380 to an impressive 26 cities across five continents, including 56 frequencies to London (Gatwick and Heathrow combined). It also recently brought forward the reintroduction of the A380 service to Perth by a month, and will deploy the aircraft on the route from November 1st.

Do you remember this spectacular formation flight over Dubai? Have you ever witnessed any similar displays? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!


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