I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually land a helicopter on the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. The closest I have gotten was when Aston Martin airlifted a Vanquish to the top of the Burj al Arab to celebrate the automaker’s centenary in 2013. That same year Red Bull Racing had former F1 driver David Coulthard spin donuts on the pad. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have played golf on the helipad. Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played on top of the 56-story hotel. Now, I’ve seen someone land a plane on the helipad.
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Earlier yesterday morning, Red Bull pilot Luke Czepiela completed a two-year endeavor by landing a CubCrafters Carbon Cub on the Burj Al Arab’s helipad. The 39-year-old Pole prepped with 650 test landings at ground level. Though, the surreal conditions of landing a 95-foot-high platform on Dubai’s coast were still a challenge for the air racing champion. Czepiela said to Red Bull:
“The biggest challenge was the lack of any external points of reference, which is usually found at an airport where you have hundreds of meters of runway.”
“Normally when approaching a runway, I see how high above it I am, and I can easily control the approach path. Today the helipad disappeared over the nose of the plane and my periphery was reduced. I had to rely on my practice and instincts when my last few references went away if I wanted to come to a stop before running out of space.”
No matter how talented and prepared Luke Czepiela was, he still needed an aircraft capable of the task. Engineer Mike Patey and a team from manufacturer CubCrafters had the goal of reducing the weight of the Carbon Cub as much as possible while offering a lot of power. The pilot’s seat, the battery, the avionics, and the fabric covering the fuselage and wings were replaced with lighter alternatives. Also, tanks of nitrous oxide were installed to increase engine power. The only component added for spectacle was a smoke generator.
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The team were able to reduce the Carbon Cub’s weight down to 936 pounds, with the lightest stock Carbon Cub weighing 1,320 pounds. The nitrous boosted the engine’s power by 50 horsepower to 230 hp. The low stall speed of 31 mph, meant that Czepiela only needed 68 feet to land on the 88-foot helipad. He was ecstatic to complete the feat, saying, “To be honest I couldn’t feel happier! Two years in the making, third attempt (to land) today and everything was perfect.”