Every Red Bull Air Race is a struggle – not just among competitors, but also between pilots and the course. For June’s championship, the first to be flown in new York City, race director Jim DiMatteo crafted a high-g’s course along the Hudson River near the Statue of liberty. DiMatteo’s team calculates the planes’ speeds, turn rates and turn radii to ensure the pilots are not exposed to g-force spikes greater than 12. They also use simulations to ensure spectators won’t be hurt by debris in the event of a crash. As in downhill skiing, the act of turning slows the racers. “We never pull the throttle back,” pilot Kirby Chambliss says. Racers push the track’s limits by taking smart, risky turns. “Pilots who win don’t go through the gates straight,” Chambliss says. “I’m going through them at a crazy angle.”
1. Pilots approached the track’s first gate at 370 km/h. The gates are attached to barges that shift with the wind and tide. “It’s like racing a car on a street that keeps moving beneath you,” Chambliss says.
2. Pilots move an aircraft’s nose as little as possible as they slalom, cutting angles so closely that their wingtip vortices nudge the inflatable gates.
3. This bend produced at least 4,3 g’s in cockpits; pilots may experience spikes above 10 g’s. “Anything above 4,0 is training and tolerance,” pilot Mike Goulian says.
4. Pilots snapped their rides on their sides, called knife flying, to steer through Gate 4 in a vertical position. Cameras ensure the turn is performed within a 20-degree standard
5. The turning manoeuvre at Gate 7 represented a chance for pilots to re-establish a strategy for the return trip through the course. Pilots typically climb and roll their aircraft to gain a better angle on the gates.