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

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Retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian speaks to Arab News in Islamabad on Oct. 28. (AN photo)
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An undated archive photo of Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian shows him during his service with Pakistan International Airlines. (Photo courtesy: Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian)
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Updated 31 October 2020

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

  • The historic flight took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985
  • 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 Emirates flight, EK600, took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985.

Recalling the airline’s birth and having observed its operations for more than 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 role 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 Oct. 1, 1985 and met 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.” “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 it.

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

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

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




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

“I was praying that nothing bad would happen,” Mian said. “The first Airbus flight was around 11 o’clock and Sheikh Mohammed (bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai) and other royal dignitaries were sitting on the 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 Oct. 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 came with a dream landing.

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

 


How the Arab News survey of French people of Arab origin was conducted

Updated 32 min 43 sec ago

How the Arab News survey of French people of Arab origin was conducted

  • Arab News en Francais-YouGov poll was based on sample of nearly 1,000 people spread across five age groups
  • A very large proportion of the respondents identified their country of origin as Algeria, followed by Morocco

DUBAI: As a wave of Islamist attacks hit France, Arab News en Francais commissioned YouGov, the leading online polling company, to conduct a study to provide answers to the recurrent phenomenon.

The survey was based on a sample of nearly 1,000 respondents living in France, spread across five age groups, six countries of origin, three types of residential areas, five categories of employment and three educational levels. The aim was to ascertain the sense of inclusion and level of integration of French Arabs and Muslims in French society.

The survey covered a sample of 52 percent of women and 48 percent of men, across five age groups: 18-24 years (15 percent); 25-34 years (31 percent); 35-44 years (32 percent); 45-54 years (14 percent); and 55 years or older (8 percent).

A large proportion of the respondents identified their country of origin as Algeria (43 percent). The other prominent countries of origin were Morocco (32 percent), Tunisia (14 percent), Lebanon (3 percent), Egypt (2 percent) and other Arab states (6 percent).

The working status of the respondents fell into the following categories: 65 percent employed; 10 percent unemployed; 8 percent students; 3 percent retired; and 14 percent others. Of the respondents, 49 percent live in large cities, 39 percent in medium cities and 12 percent in rural areas.

The sample included people of various education levels: 20 percent do not hold a bachelor’s degree; 24 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent; and 55 percent hold a higher education degree.

The findings show that 65 percent said they would support the French values of secularism in their home country. An even higher number, 80 percent, of respondents over 45 years of age supported this opinion. If the majority of respondents defended the French secular model, less than half (46 percent) opposed the same model in Arab countries.