Dubai: Want to try something adventurous while also enjoying a private flight over Dubai’s iconic sites? Head to SkyDubai to fly in a gyrocopter! Whether you are a tourist, visiting Dubai for the first time, or an adrenaline junkie who loves trying adventure sports, you will love this experience.
As someone who has always hoped to take a helicopter ride over Dubai, when my editor told me last week that she was sending me on an assignment to fly over Dubai, I was very excited. I would be in an aircraft called a gyrocopter, flying 1,500 feet high over Dubai on a 20-minute private guided tour offered at Skyhub, a part of Skydive Dubai.
But, what was this aircraft exactly? As always, I turned to the internet for some pictures and videos. It wasn’t a plane, nor was it a helicopter. As someone who had never been on a helicopter, much less a lighter sport aircraft, I was curious and perhaps slightly nervous too.
The booking said I would need to reach SkyDive Dubai Drop Zone in Dubai Marina, 30 minutes prior to the flight time, which was scheduled for 10am. So, on Monday morning, at 9.30am sharp, I was at the counter on the first floor waiting for my turn to ride the gyrocopter for the very first time in my life.
Choose from three models of gyrocopters
After filling a form with my basic details and an emergency contact, and signing an agreement that ensured I was fit to fly, I was told about the model of the gyrocopter I would be flying in – Cavalon, a fully closed gyrocopter. This was because I needed to use my phone camera to film the experience for Gulf News readers.
Usually, cellphones, bags and other items are not allowed in the gyrocopters, especially in the other two models of gyrocopters that people can choose to fly in (depending on availability) – Calidus, a semi-open aircraft, and for the extra-adventurous, MTO, an open gyrocopter.
I left my other belongings in one of the free safety lockers that customers can use at the facility.
After a few minutes of waiting I met Captain Burkus Ferenc, a cheerful and very experienced flight pilot, whom I would be flying with. With a GoPro in one hand, as he guided me to the runway, he said: “I have been a pilot with SkyDubai for 10 years now.”
The Hungarian pilot has about 4,000 flight hours on gyrocopters and around 1,000 hours on powered hang gliders (microlight).
Once we reached the runway where two gyrocopters were parked, Captain Ferenc helped me put on a safety vest and gave me instructions on what to do in case we were to land on water, in an emergency landing situation. I memorised it – unbuckle the seatbelt, push the door lock slightly to release and slide it open, and tug on the pull tab to inflate the jacket before jumping into the water.
With that in mind, I carefully sat inside the small two-seater aircraft and looked around, careful not to touch any equipment.
So what exactly is a gyrocopter?
Yes, it looks like a small helicopter, and, like a helicopter, it also uses rotorcraft mechanisms to fly. However, unlike a helicopter, which uses an engine to power its spinning rotor blades, a gyrocopter’s upper rotor blades aren't powered by an engine. Instead, the engine powers a back propeller that pushes the gyrocopter forward. As the aircraft moves, air passes naturally through its rotor blades, creating lift.
Think of it like a pinwheel. All it needs is air to rotate. The faster it spins, the more lift it creates.
With a headset in which I could hear all the communication in the surrounding airspace, and my seatbelt buckled up safe, I was excited and ready for my 20-minute flight.
For those who cannot take their phones in, don’t worry about missing any Instagram-worthy shots. Captain Ferenc explained why he had a GoPro. He said: “Whenever safe, I will be taking video clips of the flight and pictures of you with the landmarks behind you, and you will get the video and pictures in your registered email later.” This is complimentary, with every Skyhub gyrocopter flight booking.
Ready for take off
The doors closed and the gyrocopter taxied on the short runway before slowly taking off. “You are a resident, so you probably already know the places, get ready for the amazing view,” said Captain Ferenc.
Soon we were soaring through the sky, flying next to Bluewaters, which houses the recently opened Ain Dubai, the world's biggest and tallest observation wheel.
Not sure if it was surprise or the adrenaline rush, I squealed as the pilot suddenly tilted the gyrocopter and made way towards The Palm, Jumeirah. The gyrocopter was now at an altitude of 1,000 feet, as we flew over the iconic Atlantis, the Palm, and The Royal Atlantis, which is set to open this year.
After a few pictures and clips, it was time to fly towards Burj Al Arab. I heard the pilot speak into his headset that we were headed towards the World Islands, an archipelago or a group of small artificial islands, constructed in the shape of a world map.
Meanwhile, on our right was the iconic luxury hotel, Burj Al Arab.
By now we were already 10 minutes into the flight, when Captain Ferenc swiftly moved the aircraft towards Barsha. He was communicating every now and then, with the other aircraft pilots in the airspace, and I heard him say that we were going to an altitude of 1,500 feet.
As the aircraft was lifted upwards, in the distance I saw the Burj Khalifa towering over the skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai. The fog that was yet to settle entirely, made the view almost magical.
We flew near the Mall of the Emirates and got an aerial view of Al Barsha, Tecom, and soon Dubai Marina.
If you have never been to Dubai before, the Dubai Marina view is one not to be missed. Not only does it have more than 200 tall skyscrapers, it also houses unique buildings such as the Cayan tower, which is the tallest twisting building in the world, and the Princess Tower, which is the second tallest fully residential building in the world after 432 Park Avenue in New York.
A few pictures and videos later, it was time to land. It was a very smooth ride, right down to the gentle landing.
Cost, booking and requirements:
The 20-minute flight costs Dh999. According to the Skyhub website: “All residents of the UAE will receive 20 per cent off on the price of their flights.”
While walk-ins are accepted, availability is not guaranteed. It’s advised to book a slot in advance through phone or via the Skyhub website.
You have to arrive at Skyhub 30 minutes prior to the booking flight time. The payment for your flight can be made by visiting the location before or on the day of your flight.
To take the flight, you must be 17 years old or above. Another legal requirement, for the flyer, is to weigh not more than 105 kilograms.
According to the website: “The right to which style of Gyrocopter aircraft is used is up to the discretion of the operations team. Their decisions is final. This cannot be changed during an operational day.”
The flights are operated from Skyhub Dubai, Skydive Dubai Drop Zone in Dubai Marina. It is open daily, depending on the weather.