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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - By Anas Alyusuf
AL-ULA — The ongoing second edition of the Winter at Tantora Festival is drawing scores of tourists from outside as well as inside the Kingdom to the historic city of Al-Ula.
As the tourists explore the majestic landscape full of natural wonders amid sand and sunshine, they also take to the skies to have a bird’s eye view of the ancient wonderland.
In order to make their journey truly memorable, the festival organizers are offering tourists rides in a range of vintage aircraft.
There are four aircraft for the project each different in its own way.
The Beech 18, twin engined aircraft, is reminiscent of a golden age of aerial exploration.
The V77 Stinson is like an art deco sky Cadillac.
The Boeing Stearman biplane allows to get full in touch with nature and feel the wind on your face.
The T6 Harvard is an old WW2 training aircraft for fighter pilots and offers a warbird experience.
“All of the flying takes place above and between the beautiful peaks, ridges and deserts around Al-Ula, including unique aerial views of the ancient monuments,” Rob Mcdonald, the owner of the Vintage Wings company, which provides vintage aircraft and crews for events, told Saudi Gazette.
“In August 2019, I was asked to provide vintage aircraft at the Winter At Tantora Festival for The Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU),” Mcdonald said.
“It’s not very often that an opportunity arises to fly vintage in such a beautiful natural surrounding,” he added.
Mcdonald said: “Adventure lovers will be able to indicate to the pilot the type of experience they are looking for and the pilots can adjust the trip to suit. The choice of the four different aircraft allows for a full variety of tastes.”
“We delivered the aircraft by flying them all from UK via Europe, Greece, Crete and Egypt,” McDonald said describing the trip in itself as big adventure as it was done during winter and very tough to complete with a fleet of vintage aircraft.
“Initially RCU wanted to offer the rides as part of festival packages, but we now understand that they will open it to the general public. There is something quite romantic and exciting in trying this experience,” he added.
“If there is a lot of interest, I would like to persuade RCU to allow me to build on this year's program by offering all sorts of other vintage aviation activities. I believe that keen aviators around the world would love to come to Saudi Arabia and fly desert safaris in these great aircraft.”
Regarding the weather, at the moment it’s perfect, 22C and below, occasional high winds. The dry conditions are perfect for preservation of vintage aircraft and the region would make a great permanent base, he said.
“There are probably three or four months a year where flying would not be possible due to extreme heat, but this mirrors a situation in Europe where the same happens in winter due to cold weather conditions”.
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