At the conclusion of a historic three-day visit to UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, His Holiness Pope Francis was flown back to Italy by Etihad Airways. Transported on one of the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, an extensive preparation process for the flight was undertaken to transport the pontiff back home.
This consisted of a number of operational planning meetings, team briefing sessions, along with simulator training. There were several design changes added to the aircraft including the addition of the Vatican’s emblem on the aircraft’s door, as well as the inclusion of specially designed insignia added to the headrests of seats.
The crew that flew His Holiness home was comprised of 15 different nationalities.
Captain Paolo La Cava, director of Etihad Aviation Training, the group tasked with overseeing the planning and operation of the flight, said: “I am very privileged to have been part of the crew flying His Holiness Pope Francis back home to Italy. I am lucky enough to have flown Pope Francis a number of times in my aviation career and it is a great honour to have done this again for Etihad. It was amazing to have Pope Francis here in the UAE and Etihad Airways is a good representation of this country’s tolerance and diversity.”
Captain Abdulla Obaid, the Emirati pilot who led the flight crew, shared: “I am very proud and thankful to have flown His Holiness Pope Francis to Rome and to be the first Emirati pilot ever to fly the Pope. Our country’s leadership are directing us in the way of tolerance and making this country a peaceful country where people of all cultures can come together.”
During His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE, the first instance a pontiff has visited the Gulf region, he joined Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders for the Human Fraternity conference. The event brought together a number of the world’s prominent religious leaders, who exchange ideas towards the realisation of global peace.
As part of his visit, the pontiff performed mass for a congregation of roughly 130,000 people at the Zayed Sports City stadium, which was then broadcasted live on Etihad fleets across the globe.