Watch: World's shortest runway? Pilot lands plane on Dubai's Burj Al Arab helipad, sets new global record

The pilot reveals that 650 landing attempts were made on ground before the big day

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Published: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 6:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 10:55 PM

In a first, Lukasz Czepiela, an airline pilot successfully completed a bullseye landing of a plane on the Burj Al Arab helipad.

The iconic helipad, just 27m in diameter, witnessed its first plane take-off and landing.

In a video put up by Visit Dubai on Instagram, Czepiela is seen assessing the situation before making the remarkable landing. "It's a very steady wind right now," he says before moving towards the big 'H'.

The Red Bull ambassador then successfully makes the landing. Mike Patey, an aviation engineer monitoring the situation on the helipad runs in to hug and congratulate Czepiela, spitting out expletives, he says, "You beautiful man!"

The landing was made without any reference points and at a height of 212 metres, which is the 56th floor of the hotel.

As his flight added another chapter to the storied helipad, Czepiela took a moment to reflect on how this challenge ranked against his previous aviation exploits.

“My greatest passion is aerobatics. I have flown under Warsaw’s bridges, which was a five out of 10 in difficulty. I also landed on the Sopot Pier – the longest wooden pier in Europe – in 2019, which I would rank as a seven out of 10. But the Burj Al Arab landing was different. It was an 11 out of 10.

Overcoming challenges

The pilot revealed that 13 special modifications were made to the aircraft to decrease the weight as much as possible and ensure that the feat can be accomplished.

Mike Patey made several modifications to the aircraft, including reducing its weight to 400 kilograms, moving the main fuel tank to the rear of the plane for more aggressive braking, and adding nitrous to enhance power for Czepiela’s secondary challenge of taking off from the helipad.

Recalling the lead-up to the landing, Patey emphasised the importance of reducing the weight of the aircraft. “Our biggest challenge was reducing the weight,” recalled Patey. “Any mass in motion wants to keep rolling and if we couldn’t stop it, Czepiela would have bailed off the other side of the building.”

Czepiela also said on his Instagram story that 650 attempts were made on ground to prepare for the big day.

The second challenge of taking off in the limited space the size of a tennis court required Patey to come up with a solution that would afford the plane low weight but a high power output. “To achieve this, we added nitrous tanks, which provided the required power without adding weight to the aircraft. Nitrous fuel speeds up combustion in the engine, which helps the cylinders accelerate more quickly,” explained Patey.

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