Dubai 2011: Knights ride out as the magnificent seven
The UAE's national formation aerobatics team, Al Fursan (the Knights) is making its debut as a full seven-aircraft team at the show.
The significance of the seven aircraft is that each represents one of the seven individual Emirates that form the UAE.
The team made its first appearance as a ‘four-ship’ at Al Ain in January 2010, drawing its pilots from an initial group of six and flying camouflaged MB-339As. Eight pilots underwent a dedicated training course at Udine-Rivolto air base in Italy, under the supervision of the Italian Air Force’s Frecce Tricolore team, between July 2010 and January 2011, allowing the team to expand to its current size.
Ten aircraft (six legacy MB-339As already in UAE Air Force and Air Defence service, together with four ex-Italian air force examples) have been upgraded to MB-339(NAT) standards by Alenia at Venegono. This upgrade brings the aircraft to a similar standard to the MB-339(PAN) used by the Frecce Tricolore.
The wingtip fuel tanks are usually omitted and under-wing dye tanks and smoke generators are fitted. These allow the Al Fursan team to produce smoke trails in the red, white, green and black colours of the UAE flag.
The upgraded aircraft wear a smart black and gold colour scheme designed to represent the UAE’s golden sand and the ‘black gold’ that lies beneath it, and wear the national colours on the undersurfaces of the wings.