Rome

Royal Jordanian air team provides thrills

Roving ambassadors encourage spectators to visit Aqaba

Royal Jordanian air team provides thrills

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, June 28 - Air shows may be geared to attracting aviation enthusiasts, but for the Royal Jordanian Falcons (RJF), what happens before and after the 20-minute flying performance is just as much a part of the whole show. While Captain Mohammed Al Jaloudi, the head of the four-pilot Falcons team, knows that what he does in the air thrills the crowds, he is equally as passionate about his role on the ground. "Of course we pose for pictures, sign cards and shake hands, but what I really like is when I get questions about my home country, Jordan," the military-trained pilot who has directed the team since February tells ANSA. "No question is too simple," the seasoned pilot says. "But I do realize that there is a lot to explain about my country...there are many misconceptions," he chuckles, remembering questions about whether he lived in a tent or had camels. The Royal Jordanian Falcons, a perennial national aerobatic team, was formed in 1976 at the initiative of the late King Hussein Bin Talal. It is made up of volunteers from the country's airforce, all fighter pilots, who gracefully twist and turn their five Extra-300 L aerobatic aircrafts over the heads of spectators around the world. Currently on tour in Europe, the team hits 16 major air shows each year and hopes to increase that number by one annually. Their performances are free thanks to the support of King Abdullah II and is supervised by Prince Faisal Bin Al-Hussein. More financial backing comes from the Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC), Royal Jordanian Airlines and the Royal Jordanian Air force. The precision aviation team sees itself as the country's "roving ambassadors". "We have brochures and guides, but mostly, we have our knowledge and love of our country," Al Jaloudi says. Recently the team headquarters was transferred to King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba - the Red Sea resort that is blooming into a business and tourism hub for the region. "We want people to see Aqaba and everything around it, like Petra and Wadi Rum, also known as The Valley of the Moon where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed," says Al Jaloudi. But while promoting the best of Jordan is top of the list on the ground, wowing onlookers while in the air takes 100% concentration. "During the show we are flying around 150 knots and have to be sure we are always visible to spectators, while being at a safe distance all the time," the captain says. "When you fly, you forget about everything else around you...it is just you and the pilots," he says. A commentator on the ground narrates the experience for the crowd so they don't miss a beat of the team's maneuvers as they zip and loop over head and on the horizon. "We choreograph all of our performances ourselves and always have a backup routine in case weather conditions prohibit certain moves," Al Jaloudi says. Their European tour which ends in September includes the Lappeernrante Airshow in Finland, Leszno Airshow in Poland, Waddington Airshow in the UK, Krefeld Airshow in Germany, Hradec Airshow in the Czech Republic and Sanicole Airshow in Belgium.

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