“We’re all excited to be in New York,”
says Jim Reed, EAA 464543, on leave from his engineering job at
Scaled Composites and working as team technician (TT), or uber
mechanic, for Hungary’s Peter Besenyei. “This city is a great setting
for the race.”
The airplanes sit in fabric hangars set up side by side in two fac-
ing rows at New Jersey’s Linden Airport (KLDJ), 7 miles south of
the patch of Hudson River reserved for the contest.
“This is our home for the week,” says Jason Resop, TT for U.S.
pilot Kirby Chambliss, EAA 261512, inside the team’s cool refuge.
Team and sponsor colors identify the airplanes and hangars at a
glance: Michael Goulian’s Petrobras green, Nigel Lamb’s Breitling
yellow. But underneath the bright hues the aircraft are strikingly
similar. All but one, a new Corvus 540, are either Edge 540 or
MXS-R experimental monoplanes, and all have Lycoming AEIO-540
engines, from one of four approved suppliers, whose bore, stroke,
and displacement must match the specifications on their type certificates. All must weigh a minimum of 540 kilograms (kg) and carry a
minimum of 82 kg in the pilot’s position.
Battling against these limitations and competitors alike, each
crew strives for every possible edge. They optimize the performance
of the 350-hp engine, refine the airframe and redistribute weight,
and develop tactical strategies for flying each track. But these efforts
are largely completed by the time the teams arrive at the race site.
The frenetic pit activity associated with auto racing is almost
entirely absent from RBAR. So is the every-team-for-itself mentality.
“As technicians, we’re kind of a tight-knit group,” agrees
Missourian Kelley Brow in the hangar of Germany’s Matthias
Dolderer. “So even though we’re all competitors, we’re friends. We
let the pilots battle it out.”
Friends or not, teams want to win, and the international flavor of
the contest—pilots are identified by nationality as well as name—
adds to the frisson of the competition. Coming into the race, the
United Kingdom’s Paul Bonhomme is in first
place for the season, with Austria’s Hannes
Arch one point behind.
RED BULL’S FUTURE?
Five years after the launch of the Red Bull Air Race World Championships,
its future is in question. After the New York race, RBAR canceled two of the
three remaining races for the 2010 season in Lisbon, Portugal, and Budapest,
Hungary, citing delays in finalizing agreements with the cities. MX Aircraft also
announced an end to its association with RBAR, and a few days later, RBAR
canceled the 2011 season, pledging to return in 2012. Adding to the uncertain
future was the death of RBAR Technical Director Adrian Judd in a motorcycle
accident the week before the final race in Lausitz, Germany. On August 17, the
Red Bull community suffered another loss when pilot Alejandro Maclean of
Spain was killed in an accident while practicing his aerobatic routine.
“My personal feeling is we just did the last race,” said one team member
after the Lausitz contest. “But 50 races over those six seasons and not one
pilot was hurt. That’s a big pat on the back for everybody.”