Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

Retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian speaks to Arab News in Islamabad on October 28, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 07 November 2020

Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

  • First-ever Emirates flight took off from Dubai to Karachi on October 25, 1985
  • UAE flag carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence, retired captain says 

ISLAMABAD: Thirty-five years after he steered the first Emirates flight, Retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian says the success of the UAE flag carrier was and remains its competence and merit.

The first-ever Emirates flight, EK600, took off from Dubai to Karachi on October 25, 1985.

Recalling the airline’s birth and having observed its operations for over three decades, the former chief pilot of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), who flew the Emirates Airbus A300 on its maiden trip, says the UAE flag carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence. 

“Emirates selects people on merit and they give them responsibility with authority,” he told Arab News in an interview this week. “No outside interference in their job. I am proud that I was a part of competent people who played a part in building Emirates airline from scratch.”

His involvement with Emirates was a result of PIA’s contract with Dubai to provide pilots, engineers and two aircraft to help establish the UAE airline.

“I came to Dubai on October 1, 1985 and met with Emirates Airline managing director Maurice Flanagan and their teams,” Mian said. “We discussed the tasks ahead related to the arrival of two aircraft to lay the foundation of the Emirates airline.”




An undated archival photo of Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian shows him during his service with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). (Photo courtesy: Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian)

“We used to discuss the progress every day and prepare reports and if there was any problem we found, we used to help each other solve that problem. And I am grateful to the great leadership of Sheikh Ahmed who was conducting these meetings,” he said, referring to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and founder of the Emirates Group.

The two aircraft were painted in Emirates colors at a PIA hangar in Karachi, all in secrecy. They were then flown to Dubai.

“On October 18, 1985 a team of engineers along with two aircraft arrived at Dubai airport with Emirates insignia. These aircraft were kept in a hangar at the far corner of the airport away from the public eye,” Mian said. 

On October 23, 1985, the Pakistani-Emirati team had to operate five special VIP flights over Dubai.

 

“On October 22, we received some uniforms very late in the night,” the former captain said. “The laundry was closed but a young man working in the hotel took these uniforms and pressed it at his residence and brought it back around midnight.”

“I was praying that nothing bad happens,” Mian said. “The first flight of Airbus was around 11 o’clock and Sheikh Mohammed (Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum) and other royal dignitaries were sitting in that aircraft. We flew over Dubai for 45 minutes and we were escorted by Dubai air force fighter pilots.”

Two days later the UAE flag carrier took off on its first official flight.

“On October 25, we operated the first official flight to Karachi with top royal dignitaries of UAE and employees of Emirates airline on board,” Mian said. 

The smooth beginning ended with a smooth landing.

“Landing was so smooth that nobody could realize that the aircraft had landed,” Mian said. “This was the beginning of Emirates.”


‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

Updated 21 min 32 sec ago

‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

  • The 'world's loneliest elephant' has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years and lost his partner in 2012
  • Cher and animal rights groups have campaigned for years for the elephant’s better treatment and freedom 

ISLAMABAD: American singing sensation Cher called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday during a visit to Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who is all set to leave an Islamabad zoo for a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Cher and other rights groups have for years lobbied for the better treatment and release of Kaavan, who has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years. He was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioral issues. He will leave for Cambodia on Sunday.

“Appreciating her efforts in retiring Kavan to an elephant sanctuary, the Prime Minister thanked Cher for her campaign and role in this regard,” a government handout said. “The Prime Minister observed that it was indeed a happy moment for all of us that after giving joy and happiness to the people of Islamabad and Pakistan for about 35 years, Kavan will now be able to retire with other elephants in a specialized sanctuary in Cambodia.”

Khan also invited the singer to contribute towards the government's initiative to expand its tourism and environmental programs, “to which she kindly agreed.”

“On this occasion, Cher applauded the Prime Minister for his government's key initiatives for ensuring a cleaner and greener Pakistan,” the statement added. “She also offered her support for furthering the green initiatives through her organization 'Free the Wild' and thanked the Prime Minister.”

Cher took up Kaavan’s cause and has been a loud voice advocating for his resettlement. Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group, has also led the charge to save Kaavan and provided the medical treatment needed before he can travel. The battle for his relocation began in 2016.

Even after he’s in Cambodia, Kaavan will require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Four Paws' representatives have said.

Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life. A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.

The elephant has also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.

For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has been readying Kaavan to leave. Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the sanctuary.