A visionary par excellence‭ ‬

When‭ ‬he arrived in Dubai it‭ ‬had no airport and construction of it began two years‭ ‬for the facility with a runway made of compacted sand‭, ‬Norman William Turnbull had no idea that he will be‭ ‬playing an important role in Dubai and will be living‭ ‬here for the next 62‭ ‬years developing from the civil‭ ‬aviation‭, ‬a key economic activity contributing now US$80‭ ‬billion‭ ‬to the country’s economy‭. ‬Hailing from the borders between‭ ‬Scotland and England‭, ‬Norman was a true Turnbull like many‭ ‬border families who loved wandering as they wish‭. ‬He truly‭ ‬fell in love with the old world charm of Arabia‭ ‬and pitched his tent to stay put until his last‭ ‬days‭. ‬

A‭ ‬pioneer and visionary with a go-getting approach‭ ‬to work‭, ‬he carried out his tasks well under three‭ ‬generations of Dubai rulers and contributed enormously to the civil‭ ‬aviation‭.  ‬After serving in the RAF and BOAC‭, ‬he turned‭ ‬his attention towards the Trucial States by joining the International‭ ‬Aero Radio Limited‭ (‬IAL‭), ‬which is now part of the‭ ‬SERCO‭, ‬provider of ATC services in Dubai since 1967‭.  ‬After‭ ‬five years with IAL at Abu Dhabi Airport‭, ‬he moved‭ ‬lock‭, ‬stock and barrel to Sharjah to effectively manage for‭ ‬four years its airport‭, ‬the first in the Trucial States‭ ‬since 1932‭. ‬

A‭ ‬day before Trucial States became history with‭ ‬the UAE becoming a federation in December 1971‭, ‬he took‭ ‬the crucial responsibility at Dubai Airport as its Manager‭, ‬a‭ ‬time when the Department of Civil Aviation‭ (‬DCA‭) ‬was‭ ‬managing it‭. ‬His arrival was exactly four years after his‭ ‬crucial role in persuading Dubai to go ahead with the‭ ‬provision of ATC services‭. ‬During his tenure at the DCA‭, ‬a forerunner to DCAA till 2007‭, ‬he contributed immensely to‭ ‬all aspects of airport operations and trained Emiratis which helped‭ ‬Dubai being in the select club of 12‭ ‬airports which‭ ‬played host to one billion passengers‭. ‬

I‭ ‬had the privilege‭ ‬of working with him after I joined as the Operations‭ ‬Director at DCA in 1982‭.  ‬In 1985‭, ‬Turnbull was on‭ ‬the inaugural flight of Emirates which started off with just‭ ‬two leased aircraft and is now the world’s largest‭ ‬international airline and the world’s largest Boeing 777‭ ‬operator‭.  ‬In 1989‭, ‬he opened the Emirates Flying School‭. ‬

His‭ ‬association‭ ‬with Dubai continues even after his death symbolically with his‭ ‬two grandsons working as pilots with the Dubai Air Wing‭, ‬home to the ruling family’s private airliner‭. ‬A fitting‭ ‬tribute to him is the achievement of DXB becoming the‭ ‬world’s largest airport with nearly 90‭ ‬million‭ ‬passengers annually‭. ‬Dubai has in place aviation strategy up to‭ ‬the year 2050‭ ‬as part of the DCAA’s vision‭ ‬to make Dubai the Airport of the World‭. ‬













Mohammed Abdulla Ahli

Mohammed Abdulla Ahli