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.

 

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Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’

Updated 6 min 6 sec ago

Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’

  • A woman was arrested after allegedly trying to strangle one woman with her bare hands and stabbing another in the neck in a Lugano department store
  • Switzerland has never suffered a major extremist attack, but police and officials highlighted several recent incidents being investigated for possible terrorist motives

GENEVA: A woman arrested for a knife attack in a Swiss department store was linked to a 2017 extremism investigation and spent time in a psychiatric clinic, police said on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old was held on Tuesday after allegedly trying to strangle one woman with her bare hands and stabbing another in the neck.

The second victim in the attack, in Lugano in southern Switzerland, was said to be seriously wounded.

“The perpetrator is known to @FedpolCH,” the federal police said on Twitter. “She appeared in a police investigation in 2017 in connection with extremism.”

Police had discovered at the time that the woman had formed a relationship on social media with an extremist fighter in Syria.

She had attempted to travel to Syria to meet the man, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and was sent back to Switzerland.

“The woman was suffering from mental health problems,” police said, adding that she had been admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

She had not been on the radar of the federal police since then, the tweet said.

During Tuesday’s incident, the woman was overpowered by customers in the shop before officers arrived.

The regional police later mentioned a possible terror motive behind the attack.

“The situation is extremely serious,” said Norman Gobbi, head of the Ticino regional government.

The Swiss federal police said criminal proceedings were under way.

“This attack does not surprise me,” federal police chief Nicoletta della Valle said Tuesday, underlining that such attacks occurred all over the world.

Switzerland has never suffered a major extremist attack, but police and officials highlighted several recent incidents being investigated for possible terrorist motives.

And two Swiss nationals aged 18 and 24 were arrested near Zurich over alleged links to the perpetrator of a deadly attack in neighboring Austria’s capital Vienna earlier this month.

After Tuesday’s incident, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that he condemned the “extremist terrorist attack” in Lugano.

“We stand with Switzerland in these difficult hours,” he wrote.

“We’ll give a joint response to extremist terrorism in Europe and defend our values.”

A Daesh sympathizer who had tried to join the extremist group in Syria was behind the attack in Vienna, in which four people were killed and several others injured.