World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
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Luke Czepiela spent 650 test landings at ground level — in Poland, the US, and Dubai — building his confidence to land on the elevated helipad. (Supplied)
World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
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Luke Czepiela’s landing is not the first time the sail-shaped hotel has been the scene of an impressive feat. (Supplied)
World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
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Luke Czepiela’s plane has been modified to use nitrous to enhance power for hissecondary challenge — taking off from the helipad. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 March 2023

World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

World first: Pilot lands plane on Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
  • Poland’s Luke Czepiela stops a fixed-wing aircraft 212 meters above the ground on helipad of Dubai’s world-famous hotel

At 39 years old, Luke Czepiela has spent his life pushing his limits in aviation, and at 6:58 a.m. on March 14, he became the first person in history to land a plane on the helipad atop the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai.

Czepiela, an air racing champion, had just 27 meters to bring his Cub Crafters-built STOL aircraft (Carbon Cub/short take-off and landing) to a stop and completed the task in 20.76 meters. While the aircraft is specifically made for abrupt landings in ordinary circumstances, landing atop a 56-story building ensured Czepiela’s historic landing took place in extraordinary circumstances.

Adding to the spectacle was Czepiela’s take off, where he soared over the beach in celebration.

“To be honest I couldn’t feel happier! Two years in the making, third attempt (to land) today and everything was perfect. We’ve managed to put a plane on a helipad 212 meters above the ground, on the most iconic, the most beautiful building in the world,” said Czepiela.

“The best bit after the landing was the take-off, I had so much fun just dropping the aircraft out of the sky and diving almost to beach level.”

Czepiela has been prepping for this moment since 2021. In total, he completed 650 test landings at ground level — in Poland, the US, and Dubai — building his confidence to land on the elevated helipad.

“The biggest challenge was the lack of any external points of reference, which is usually found at an airport where you have hundreds of meters of runway,” he said.

“Normally when approaching a runway, I see how high above it I am, and I can easily control the approach path. Today the helipad disappeared over the nose and my periphery was reduced. I had to rely on my practice and instincts if I wanted to come to a stop before running out of space.”

Czepiela’s landing is not the first time the sail-shaped hotel has been the scene of an impressive feat. Among those moments was a tennis match between champions Roger Federer and Andre Agassi in 2005, and in 2013, David Coulthard performed donuts in a Formula One car.

Coulthard, a 13-time F1 Grand Prix winner, said of Czepiela’s achievement: “I want to send my congratulations to Luke for joining me as the only two people to do donuts on the Burj Al Arab helipad. What an incredible sight, seeing him land an aircraft on the pad!”

With his flight adding another chapter to the storied helipad, Czepiela recalled the moment when the perfect weather conditions arrived for him to attempt his world-first landing.

“Once I got to the aircraft and I started practicing with the little wind, I felt so confident, I felt so good,” Czepiela said.

Guiding Czepiela onto the helipad was renowned American aviation engineer, fabricator and aircraft builder Mike Patey.

“I just played some music in my helmet and Mike said the magic words, ‘Wind is steady at seven (knots),’ and I said, ‘Ok, let’s drop this baby down on the pad.’ When I stopped, I couldn’t (help) myself. I was running, I was shouting, and everyone was hugging each other.

“We landed a plane on the helipad on top of the Burj Al Arab. I have too many emotions to give you technical details. We landed a plane on a helipad!”

Patey modified Czepiela’s plane with the team from aircraft manufacturer Cub Crafters. He and the team made a number of modifications, reducing aircraft weight to 425 kg, moving the main fuel tank to the rear of the plane to allow for more aggressive braking, and adding nitrous to enhance power for Czepiela’s secondary challenge — taking off from the helipad.

“In the lead-up, our biggest challenge was reducing the weight,” recalled Patey. “Any mass in motion wants to keep rolling and if we couldn’t stop it, Luke would have bailed off the other side of the building.

“But a lighter plane also means wind throws it around more, and you have less control. In this environment — with a tall building sticking up next to the helipad — weird wind currents go over the top and around the side of it. So, we wanted some nice headwind to help the landing, but not too much. This was a truly unique challenge. It’s a love-hate thing.”

The second challenge of taking off in a space the size of a tennis court meant that Czepiela needed a low-weight, high-power output solution.

“We added nitrous tanks to get a lot of power without a lot of weight. This fuel speeds up combustion in the engine, pushing its cylinders to accelerate more quickly,” Patey explained.

“The Carbon Cub is the right aircraft for this project, but we needed the right person to fly it. And there are only a couple (of people) on this planet I would feel comfortable (to see) making this attempt. Luke is exactly that guy.”

Czepiela wanted to be a pilot since he was a child and now has a piece of history to sit alongside previous exploits, including landing on Poland’s Sopot Pier, the longest wooden pier in Europe.

“From the first arrival here at the Burj Al Arab almost two years ago, we set out a plan (for) how to do it, and now we’ve completed the plan, and everyone played their role exactly as scheduled,” Czepiela said.

“I feel awesome. There is no other word to describe it!”


Scheffler, McIlroy grab opening victories while Rahm falls at WGC Match Play

Scheffler, McIlroy grab opening victories while Rahm falls at WGC Match Play
Updated 11 sec ago

Scheffler, McIlroy grab opening victories while Rahm falls at WGC Match Play

Scheffler, McIlroy grab opening victories while Rahm falls at WGC Match Play
  • Spain’s Rahm fell to US 49th seed Fowler 2 and 1
  • South Korean Tom Kim edged Sweden’s Alex Noren 2 and 1 in Scheffler’s group

WASHINGTON: Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and world No.3 Rory McIlroy won while second-ranked Jon Rahm lost to Rickie Fowler in Wednesday’s opening group matches at the WGC Match Play Championship.

US seventh seed Will Zalatoris and Norwegian eighth seed Viktor Hovland were also among five top group seeds to fall on day one at Austin (Texas) Country Club.

Sixteen winners from four-man groups will advance to weekend knockout rounds.

Reigning Masters champion Scheffler, who won the Players Championship earlier this month, sank a 13-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to edge US 54th seed Davis Riley 2 and 1.

“Fortunate to come away with a win,” Scheffler said. “I’m going to remember that putt on the last hole and take that energy into tomorrow.”

Scheffler, who never trailed, holed out from 52 feet for eagle to win the par-4 fifth hole and eagled from 24 feet to take the par-4 13th.

Riley missed a three-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th that would have pulled him level but Scheffler missed a 3.5-foot putt at the par-3 17th to win the match.

“I got off to a really good start. Outside of that I didn’t really play great,” Scheffler said. “Fortunately I saw that putt go in on 18.”

South Korean Tom Kim edged Sweden’s Alex Noren 2 and 1 in Scheffler’s group.

Spain’s Rahm fell to US 49th seed Fowler 2 and 1. Rahm, a three-time PGA winner this year, missed a par putt from just inside five feet to drop the 15th. Fowler sank a seven-footer for par at 16 and halved 17 as well to win.

“Just had to stay patient and rely on iron play,” Fowler said. “I just kept grinding and pushing forward.”

It was Fowler’s first appearance at the event since 2016 and Rahm’s first opening-match loss in six starts.

Four-time major winner McIlroy beat American Scott Stallings 3 and 1 with a new putter and new driver.

“It was a good first outing for both those clubs,” McIlroy said. “They performed pretty well.”

The 2015 Match Play winner from Northern Ireland said the event helps prepare him for stroke-play challenges to come.

“There’s a ton of golf left this season but to get a bit of match play in our lives is good, and to get under pressure,” McIlroy said.

US 20th seed Keegan Bradley, 4-down after 13, won four of the last five holes, his six-foot birdie putt taking 18 to tie countryman Denny McCarthy in McIlroy’s group.

Zalatoris dropped the last three holes to fall 3 and 2 to 56th-seeded compatriot Andrew Putnam.

US 59th seed Matt Kuchar, the 2013 Match Play champion, won 3 and 1 over Hovland. Kuchar, at 44 the oldest in the field, is one shy of Tiger Woods’s event record 36 match wins.

Aussie 33rd seed Adam Scott sank a 26-foot birdie putt at the 18th to grab his only lead in a 1-up victory over Irish 30th seed Seamus Power.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, last won a PGA title in 2020 at Riviera.

“I haven’t won anything much in a long time,” he said. “A win feels satisfying.”

South Korean 16th seed Im Sung-jae beat US 58th seed Maverick McNealy 8 and 6, matching the most lopsided group win at Austin.

US 61st seed J.J. Spaun never trailed in upsetting England’s 11th-seeded Matt Fitzpatrick 5 and 3. Spaun won four of the last five holes from the reigning US Open champion with three birdies and an eagle hole-out from 107 yards at the par-4 13th.

“I just slung it with the wind,” Spaun said. “I could tell it was going to be pretty good, but then it got really good and then it just disappeared and the crowd went nuts.”


Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids

Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids
Updated 23 March 2023

Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids

Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids

MANCHESTER, Britain: The battle to buy Manchester United heated up on Wednesday as Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe prepared to raise their bids for the 20-time English champions.
Both parties were expected to increase their initial offers after the submission deadline of 2100 GMT was extended by merchant bank Raine, which is assisting with the sale of the club, following confusion over the timing, the BBC reported.
Sky Sports also reported that Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe had been granted extensions to submit fresh bids.
The new deadline for offers has not been made clear, according to the BBC.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, have reportedly set a world record £6 billion ($7.3 billion) valuation for a sports club.
Sheikh Jassim’s bid for 100 percent control of the club promises to wipe United’s $620 million debt and invest in a new stadium and training ground, in addition to backing for the men’s and women’s teams.
A source close to Sheikh Jassim’s bid told AFP he remains confident his bid is “the best for the club, fans and local community.”
INEOS chemical company founder Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, has been more circumspect in his assessment, insisting he will not pay a “stupid” price in a bidding war for one of football’s most iconic clubs.
“How do you decide the price of a painting? How do you decide the price of a house? It’s not related to how much it cost to build or how much it cost to paint,” Ratcliffe told the Wall Street Journal this week.
“What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it subsequently.”
Ratcliffe, who wants the 69 percent stake owned by the Glazer family, said his interest in United would be “purely in winning things,” calling the club a “community asset.”
Deeply unpopular with supporters since they saddled the club with debt in a £790 million leveraged takeover in 2005, the Glazers appeared ready to cash out at an enormous profit when they invited external investment in November.
However, they could yet shun the option of selling a controlling stake in the club, with other parties interested in a minority shareholding.
The initial offers from the first round of bidding last month were believed to have been worth around £4.5 billion.
That would surpass the Premier League record of £2.5 billion paid for Chelsea last year by a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with a further £1.75 billion promised in investment in infrastructure and players.
Bidders are expected to hear from United next week, with another round of bidding still in play.
If one bid is vastly ahead of the others, it could be chosen to enter into a period of exclusivity, which would allow further negotiation ahead of a final sale.

Ratcliffe visited Old Trafford last Friday along with INEOS representatives, a day after a delegation from Sheikh Jassim’s group toured the club’s stadium and training ground to hold more talks as part of their due diligence.
Just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup, a successful Qatari bid would give the Gulf state pride of place in the Premier League — the world’s most-watched domestic competition.
But it would also be controversial.
Sheikh Jassim is the son of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and his close links to the gulf state’s ruling elite would raise questions over another Premier League club becoming a state-backed project.
Premier League champions Manchester City’s fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family in 2008.
In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.
Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are “not an opportunity for more sportswashing.”
United, three-time European champions, haven’t won the Premier League since legendary boss Alex Ferguson led them to a 20th English title in his final season before retiring in 2013.
But they are enjoying a renaissance under Erik ten Hag’s management this season and ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup last month.
 


Lyon’s Women’s Champions League title bid suffers blow after Chelsea defeat, Wolfsburg win

Lyon’s Women’s Champions League title bid suffers blow after Chelsea defeat, Wolfsburg win
Updated 23 March 2023

Lyon’s Women’s Champions League title bid suffers blow after Chelsea defeat, Wolfsburg win

Lyon’s Women’s Champions League title bid suffers blow after Chelsea defeat, Wolfsburg win
  • Since 2016, Lyon only once have failed to win the competition

LYON, France: Lyon’s chances of a seventh Women’s Champions League title in eight years were hit by losing 1-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Guro Reiten’s winner — a curling strike in the 28th minute — puts Chelsea in control against the defending champions heading into the second leg next week at Stamford Bridge.

Since 2016, Lyon only once have failed to win the competition — in 2021, when the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by French rival Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG, which has never won the Champions League, lost 1-0 to Wolfsburg in Wednesday’s other quarterfinal first leg.

Delphine Cascarino hit the post for Lyon in the second half but the eight-time champions couldn’t find the equalizer at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.

The Norway international’s goal was set up by Erin Cuthbert, who fought off Ellie Carpenter in midfield before delivering a pass into the area for Reiten’s one-timer.

Chelsea have never won the tournament. They lost to Barcelona 4-0 in the 2021 final.

In Paris, defender Dominique Janssen converted a penalty in the 62nd minute for the visitors at Parc des Princes.

The penalty was awarded to the German team after a video review determined that Elisa de Almeida handled the ball in the area — an infraction that earned the PSG defender her second yellow card and a sending off.

In Tuesday’s first legs, Bayern Munich and Barcelona won 1-0 against Arsenal and Roma, respectively.


IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest

IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest
Updated 23 March 2023

IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest

IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest
  • Bach said he opposed political influence on sports and any suggestion that Russians should be treated as if they have “collective guilt”

ESSEN, Germany: International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach defended his organization’s efforts to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition in a speech in his home country of Germany which took place amid a pro-Ukraine protest Wednesday.

Bach reiterated the IOC’s position that it would be discriminatory to exclude Russians and Belarusians based on citizenship alone and argued the Olympics can help promote dialogue at a tense time. Public broadcaster WDR reported nearly 200 pro-Ukraine protesters gathered outside the venue calling for Russia to be excluded entirely from the Olympics.

The IOC recommended excluding Russia and Belarus on safety grounds soon after the invasion last year but now argues for letting the two countries’ athletes compete as neutrals without national symbols ahead of a packed calendar of qualification events for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Bach said he opposed political influence on sports and any suggestion that Russians should be treated as if they have “collective guilt.” The Olympics, he added, need to remain neutral to be a unifying force.

The IOC previously said it wants to keep out athletes deemed to be “actively supporting the war,” with a final decision lying with the international federations running individual sports, but it has given few details of how that would work.

Bach refined that approach Wednesday, indicating the IOC could recommend barring athletes who pose with a “Z” symbol, a marking used on Russian military vehicles which has become a symbol of support for the war.

“Our principles say clearly and distinctly that any active support for the war, and that includes wearing this ‘Z’, that includes posts and much else besides (is prohibited). Anyone who supports the war in this way cannot, or in relation to the international federations, since we are issuing this only as a recommendation, should not take part in these competitions,” Bach said.

Asked about what to do with the many Russian athletes who are part of the military or have ties to military organizations, Bach indicated the IOC could decide on its approach at a board meeting next week.

“Wait until the middle of next week. I am confident that we will come up with appropriate guidelines then,” he said.


On eve of record, Ronaldo a ‘better man’ after United ordeal

On eve of record, Ronaldo a ‘better man’ after United ordeal
Updated 23 March 2023

On eve of record, Ronaldo a ‘better man’ after United ordeal

On eve of record, Ronaldo a ‘better man’ after United ordeal
  • Ronaldo said he is motivated and enjoying his time back with Portugal’s national team after a disappointing World Cup

LISBON: Cristiano Ronaldo, on the eve of becoming the player with the most appearances with a national team in men’s soccer, said his difficult second spell with Manchester United made him a better man.

Ronaldo opened up briefly about his troubles at the English club ahead of Portugal’s match against Liechtenstein in qualifying for the European Championship on Thursday, when he is set to break the all-time record for appearances with a national team with 197.

“There is no time for regrets in this life. Even if we don’t do so well, it’s part of our life,” Ronaldo said Wednesday. “When we are at the top of the mountain, it’s hard to see what’s down here and many times I couldn’t. I feel like I’m better prepared now because I can see some things. I’m a better man now.”

The 38-year-old Ronaldo joined Saudi club Al Nassr after his contract was terminated by United following a TV interview in which he criticized manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners after being benched and even temporarily suspended by the club.

“I think that everything in life happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m often grateful to go through some difficult things so I can see who is really on my side. At the tough times, you see who is on your side. It wasn’t a very good phase in my life, in my career, first on a personal level and then professionally.”

Ronaldo said he is motivated and enjoying his time back with Portugal’s national team after a disappointing World Cup in which he was benched in the knockout rounds and left the field in tears after a loss to Morocco in the quarterfinals. He came off the bench in that match to tie Bader Al-Mutawa’s mark of 196 outings for Kuwait.

He is expected to break the record on Thursday as new Portugal coach Roberto Martínez said he still counts on the star forward.

“This record is special. I’ll be really proud if it happens,” Ronaldo said. “But I want to keep playing even more games, I don’t want to stop here.”

Ronaldo admitted there were doubts about his future with the national team, but that’s all in the past now.

“It was all in the balance after the World Cup,” he said. “I reflected with my family and then we came to the conclusion that it was not time to throw in the towel. I learned a lot from it and I’m very happy to be back.”