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Taking flight

“It’s almost like everything in the UAE has been built to be viewed from above,” says Seawings pilot Cameron Hoyle, as he motions towards Dubai’s iconic skyline. And he’s right – the aerial views of Dubai and Abu Dhabi from the luxury seaplanes are nothing short of spectacular. From the air, sights famed the world over take on an entirely new view. The architecture of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, comes into focus as an abstraction of the desert hymenocallis flower, while the largest Scuderia Ferrari “prancing horse” emblem in the world is proudly displayed on Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’s red roof over Yas Island.

“Even if I’m on the same flights over and over, I still look down at Palm Jumeirah and I’m blown away. I also really enjoy flying over Fujairah and through the mountains. Living in the UAE, sometimes we forget that the mountains are so close,” explains Hoyle with a wistful smile. Mountains are, after all, very special to him. “I lived in the mountains of Banff, Alberta in Canada when I was young which is right on the route for the main jets flying across the country. I still have this vivid memory as a boy of looking up at the sky and seeing a jet fly over with its contrails against the deep blue sky. That really was the start of it all. I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a pilot,” says 32-year-old Hoyle. That interest sparked a passion and, after securing his commercial pilot’s licence followed by hundreds of hours of flight training and practice, Hoyle specialised in seaplanes. He was working in Fiji when he was offered the chance to work for Seawings in 2012.

The Dubai-based seaplane tour operator offers aerial tours and exclusive charters to destinations across the UAE, with plans in place to add to the company’s roster of available routes and experiences in the future. The Seawings fleet currently consists of three Cessna 208 Caravan seaplanes equipped with luxury leather seating in an air-conditioned cabin and large windows for the best views of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Every day presents something different for Hoyle, as he explains: “The first thing I do in the morning is check the weather. We’re always concerned about air pressure as that affects the performance of the aircraft and wind speed. Visibility is another important factor, not just because it’s a scenic flight, but for safety reasons. We won’t fly if the visibility isn’t good enough, though that rarely happens.

“Interacting with people is what makes every flight special. As we predominantly do tourist flights, I meet people from all over the world. Sometimes they are really nervous walking down the ramp towards the plane but everyone walks away happy. Flying in a small plane is easier for some reason, even for people who are scared of flying.”

For Hoyle, piloting a seaplane is more than just a job. “I don’t think I could ever get bored of flying seaplanes. The water is always different and so is the wind. There’s a whole world to explore and, since there is no air traffic control, you’re the one taking off and landing and making all the decisions. That feeling of adrenaline and sense of freedom – there’s nothing like it.”

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