Dubai and vertigo 1999 - Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts

Tony Cunnane's Afterthoughts
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Dubai and vertigo 1999

This item was written on 4 August 2017

Another alarming fire in one of Dubai’s tallest buildings today, 4 August 2017, reminded me of one of my trips to Dubai with the Red Arrows in 1999. For someone who has spent most of his career flying aeroplanes, you may be surprised to read that I get vertigo when I’m more than a few feet above the ground but still attached to it. For example, I always feel very insecure climbing a ladder up the side of my house or climbing up into the loft. Someone in the Red Arrows (I know who you are) knew this when they arranged for me to go to the top of what was then the tallest building in Dubai, the Burj-al-arab Hotel, so that I could take pics of the Team as they flew past on a training sortie.

Above: I took this pic as the 'lift' was on its way down to collect me for my ride to the top.
I was alarmed to note that there was only a single cable hoisting the lift up and down. It was too late then to think of a decent way out of my trip to the top since the contractors' Chief Engineer had laid it on especially for me and he accompanied me throughout. It was bad enough going up but even worse coming down because it was much faster – and I even forgot to photograph the Red Arrows as they flew past. Fortunately a civilian press photographer, flying in the back seat of one of the Hawks, took a pic which he sent me as a memento of where I had been.

Above: I have forgotten the name of the civilian photographer who took this photograph for me from the back seat of one of the Red Arrows. If he cares to contact me I will credit his copyright accordingly.
Above: The view I got from the top.
Above: the small platform at the top, nearly 1,000ft above the beach, is where, in the picture I (on the left) was standing with the two engineers. Believe me: that platform wobbled! A design feature, according to the engineers. I didn't actually have my left arm around the guy in the centre; I was holding tightly on to the totally inadequate safety bar while the third engineer took the photograph.

Just for the record: I did not have vertigo while I was still an active pilot in the RAF; it developed as a result of an ear infection during my time in Berlin (1979-80), which also left me with tinnitus.

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