Aviation in Dubai

I’m taking some recurrent helicopter training in Torrance, California at the Robinson Factory (some photos of the R66 assembly line). I ran into one of my old instructors, who has graduated to flying fancy turbine-powered helicopters in Dubai. How has life worked out for him over there? Despite having grown up in one of the world’s most beautiful countries, at the center of Europe, he doesn’t mind the Dubai climate and sandy landscape. The continuous sunshine makes him happy. He found another expatriate there to marry and they live in a comfortable downtown apartment. Rents are about the same as in the more expensive U.S. cities, i.e., $2000-4000 per month for the nicest 2-3 bedroom places downtown. Incomes for pilots are at least double what American companies pay. “I earn about $180,000 per year,” my friend noted, “but you have to remember that it goes a lot farther than in the U.S. or Europe because there are no taxes.”

Is the party for expatriate pilots going to end once the locals get their ratings? “My operation does not have any Emirati pilots,” he explained, “though various airlines down here have 5-year programs where a local person will get paid a salary while learning to fly from 0 hours through ATP [about 1500 hours]. Somehow they end up not wanting to pursue aviation as a career. So there is always a need for a foreign pilot.”

More: Heritage Foundation’s report on the U.A.E. (a bit surprising because I thought that it was mostly the government spending oil money but these guys claim that government is only about 22 percent of GDP, a much lower percentage than in the U.S.; I wonder if they are accurately accounting for government-affiliated companies)


  1. dark side

    March 20, 2013 @ 1:05 am


    Population doubled from 4,106,427 in 2005 to 8,264,070 in 2010.
    56% are south asian who are treated like slaves, worse than dogs.
    Shias from South Asia are being kicked out.

    70% of their Gas is being used for desalination.
    that is why they are in a rush to build nuclear plants
    to do desalination otherwise they would have no gas export
    in few years.

    you can pretend to not know these until they
    need to create propaganda against them for an invasion
    but by then all the gas will be consumed by their population.

  2. David

    March 20, 2013 @ 8:27 am


    Probably not the kind of place you’d want to raise a daughter, though.

  3. Jagadeesh Venugopal

    March 20, 2013 @ 11:42 am


    A while ago, there was an article that’s relevant to the current discourse.


  4. Brian Gulino

    March 20, 2013 @ 2:12 pm


    I think places like Dubai, and many parts of Asia are more appealing now because media is internationalized. You can live in Dubai, get a large screen TV and a satellite dish, sit in your apartment, and pretend you’re in the U.S.A.

  5. Dg

    March 20, 2013 @ 3:28 pm


    Story told to me by my Air Canada A320 pilot brother-in-law: While training on the sim there were some Saudi nation pilots traing on it too. The training involved loading up the scenarios with more and more complexity until the pilots made a mistake. The Saudis would reach a point where they were overwhelmed, then just throw up their hands then sit passively at the controls telling the instructors, “”its in God’s hands now.

  6. Chaminda

    March 20, 2013 @ 11:46 pm


    By any chance did you inquire about Robinson’s production process? Are they practicing Lean or any other process?

  7. Mark

    March 21, 2013 @ 2:00 am


    Hi Phil,

    OT, but would you consider buying an R66?

  8. philg

    March 21, 2013 @ 2:38 pm


    Chaminda: Robinson keeps a lot of inventory of stuff around, ranging from engines to parts that they machine themselves. So I don’t think that they are doing anything different than a manufacturer from the 1950s. Just-in-time delivery would probably not work too well in aviation where there aren’t too many suppliers and the quantities are tiny.

    Mark: I enjoyed my flight in the R66 but I don’t like its 1960s-style engine controls and 1950s-style panel. There are way too many opportunities to blow up the $250,000 engine and also there are some pilot workload issues with monitoring torque and airspeed. Not any harder to manage, probably, than a Jet Ranger, but not any easier either.

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