Dubai's First International Airport 1959
Dubai's first International Airport was built in 1959 at Al Ghusais by order of the late Ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Dubai had no direct air services at that time. Imperial Airways Flying Boat Services had previously landed on Dubai Creek for an overnight stop enroute to Karachi and onward to Australia. Their passengers slept in Sharjah for security reasons!
1950s - Dubai didn't have an Airport - But Sharjah did!
Prior to 1951, Freddie Bosworth was a former RAF Pilot who founded Gulf Aviation as an air-taxi service in 1950, gradually expanding into a small commuter operation based in Bahrain and flying to Doha (in Qatar), Sharjah (UAE) and Dhahran (Saudi Arabia). Seven Avro Ansons and three de Havilland DH.86B four-engined biplanes formed the fleet, but more modern aircraft were needed. So Bosworth chose the de Havilland Dove. While preparing to introduce the type into service he was killed on a demonstration flight at Croydon UK on June 9, 1951. Freddie Bosworth regularly flew into Dubai, landing on a sand strip at Al Ghusais, bringing gold bullion shipped to Bahrain but destined for Dubai's "export" business. Dubai didn't have an airport - Sharjah did. Sheikh Rashid saw the potential of air travel and transport for Dubai and wanted his own airport. But the British Government resisted Sheikh Rashid's request. Britain's RAF and Army were established in a base near Sharjah Airport so it suited the British Government to maintain Sharjah's hold on regional air transport. With Freddie Bosworth's help, Sheikh Rashid overcame British resistance and built Dubai's first airport in Al Ghusais. His first choice was Jebel Ali but Al Maktoum International Airport is the official name of a major airport in Jebel Ali, Dubai that opened on 27 June 2010. Previous working names included "Jebel Ali International Airport City", and "Dubai World Central". Airport is named after the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai."Jebel Ali International Airport City", and "Dubai World Central". Airport is named after the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai.">Jebel Ali was considered too far from Dubai!
Original runway was made from compacted sand. Middle East Airlines (MEA) was the first airplane to land on the 1.8 km (1.12 miles) long runway. MEA and Kuwait Airways flew De Havilland Herons and Doves into Dubai. Later they used four engined Viscounts. These bigger more powerful aircraft frequently "blew away" the runway. Sheikh Rashid eventually ordered the runway to be reconstructed with modern materials.
Dubai Original Airport Terminal
International travelers flew into Bahrain then took a local flight to Sharjah. When Dubai's original Airport Terminal Building opened it had minimal facilities. Not that many facilities were needed! Flights were infrequent and although sometimes full, these planes usually did not carry large numbers of passengers. Passengers disembarked and walked across the tarmac to the Airport Terminal, providing a very hot welcome to Dubai in summer!. A solitary Immigration Officer processed passports from behind an old wooden desk and the Customs Officer checked very little. The process took minutes. Passengers could then visit two Duty Free Shops in the Terminal. Prior to around 1973 alcohol was freely available in Dubai. Passengers walked out of the Terminal to a car park (with 500 spaces) to find a taxi. No air conditioned taxis in those days!
March 1971 - Chapman Family arrives at Dubai Airport
We flew into Bahrain from New Zealand on a BOAC Boeing 707. It was a long flight! Spent a couple of days at Head Office in Bahrain then we were on the Gulf Aviation daily "Milk Run" Flight around the lower Gulf States. We had no sooner taken off from Bahrain than we were landing at Dharan. Next stop was Doha followed by Abu Dhabi before the Fokker Friendship's wheels touch down on Dubai's runway. The plane had not been full. In Dubai just four people disembarked - my wife, our two children and me! We walked across the hot tarmac towards the (original) Terminal Building. Coming to greet us was my new boss - Capt. Arthur Jarman. He met us long before we got to the Terminal Building so we walked together to the Terminal. On the tarmac outside the Terminal Building stood a wooden desk behind which was an Immigration Officer and a Customs Officer. Our passports were handed over, immediately stamped and handed back. Our luggage had been hand carried by a porter from the plane and handed to us when we reached the desk. The Customs Officer gave our luggage a cursory glance then waived us through. Within minutes of leaving the plane we were getting into Arthur's car for the drive to our new home. That drive left us with an adverse impression of Dubai. Coming from green New Zealand and having spent time in Bahrain, Dubai was, by comparison, desolate! No trees to be seen anywhere and nothing but sand, sand and more sand. If someone had told me then that I would stay in Dubai for over 30 years I would have thought they were crazy. But I did - stay - that is - for over 30 years. But then so did a lot of other people!!
Len Chapman 2015