Flying Boats on Dubai Creek
Airplanes have been landing at Dubai since the 1950s. Dubai built "new" Airport and Terminal in 1959 to service this growing traffic. This was located in the Al Ghusais Area of Dubai and regarded as Dubai's first Airport. But Dubai had another Airport long before the Al Ghusais Airport was built. From 1935 to 1947 Dubai Creek was Dubai's main and only Airport!
Back in the 1930s
There were few international airports back then. Flying Boat Aircraft had an advantage over land based Aircraft as they could land anywhere there was sufficient water whether it was the sea, a river, a lake or, in Dubai's case, a Creek. Developing land based Airports was expensive and difficult back then. British Government wanted to improve communications with its far flung Empire. Developing a Flying Boat Service to link Britain with Australia, New Zealand and all its Colonies in between was their answer. Dubai Creek's BOAC Jetty was part of that international link.
Route: Southampton (UK) to Australia via Dubai
An Australia to England flight by the Empire Airmail Route involved some 31 refueling stops, one of which was Dubai Creek. Despite navigational difficulties of flying over open water and top speed of 160mph, these flying boats reduced travel time from England to Australia to (then) an unbelievable ten days, significantly faster and more comfortable than smaller, land-based DH86 biplanes they replaced which flew via Sharjah Airport.
Arriving & Departing Dubai Creek by Flying Boat 1930s
Normal route from Kuwait was direct to Dubai down the Persian Gulf - a distance of 458 n.m. (843 km.). Some 'boats called at Bahrein on their way to Dubai. Distances from Kuwait to Bahrein - 234 n.m. or 430 km. and from Bahrain to Dubai - 261 n.m. or 480 km. Low level flying over the Gulf was hot and bumpy. The alighting area at Dubai was on a reach of Dubai Creek. Charge for alighting and an overnight stay was 5 rupees, with an additional 4 rupees for the night watchman. Passengers and crew were ferried 10 miles (16 km.) from Dubai Creek in two Ford utilities, to sleep overnight at the combined Sharjah Fort and Hotel, complete with its steel entrance door, loopholes for rifles and encircling belt of barbed wire. Departing Dubai, the route was eastwards across the desert, climbing to a safe height of 8,000ft. to cross the mountain range. Sector from Dubai to Karachi direct was flown over the Gulf of Oman, following the southern coast of Persia, to Karachi - a distance of 630 n.m. or 1,160 km. This part of the route was subject to monsoon conditions from June to August with much turbulence and upward convection currents. Tropical storms were also frequent in May and June and again in October and November. From the windows of the promenade cabin (flying eastbound) passengers could see some of the most extraordinary and fantastic rock formations of the Makran coast range of mountains. 'Boats sometimes put down at Jiwani, a fishing village on a sheltered inlet. Sector distance was 377 n.m. or 694 km
Source: "Flying Empires" by Brian Cassidy
Why was the Jetty called "The BOAC Jetty"?
From 1937 Imperial Airways operated a weekly service from UK to Pakistan via Dubai Creek. Following outbreak of World War 2, Singapore's invasion in 1940 brought an end to the Empire Mail Route. An alternative route was established called the Horseshoe Route whereby overland air routes linked UK, Durban and Cairo to connect with Short Empire Class Flying Boats flying Khartoum, Luxor, Cairo, Kallia (Dead Sea), Habbaniya (Iraq), Basra, Bahrain, Dubai, Jiwani and onto Karachi to link with Qantas Flying Boats flying the eastern route to Australia and New Zealand.
By 1938 four flying boats a week were landing on Dubai Creek. In 1940 Imperial Airways restructured into British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). By 1944, BOAC operated 8 flying boats a week into Dubai Creek. A permanent jetty was built on Deiraside of Dubai Creek where these flying boats could moor, passengers disembark/embark to make their way to Sharjah and supplies loaded.