21 August 2008

Red Bull Air Race - London 2008

Red Bull Air Race - the name said it all…high energy and excitement…and I was not disappointed! It was awesome!
Red Bull Air Race is an international series of air races held in different cities. The pilots have to navigate a challenging obstacle course made up of a series of huge inflatable cones called ‘air gates’ in the fastest possible time.
Pilots must not only be fast but deftly accurate as hitting these air gates, missing an air gate or flying through at an incorrect angle incurs various time penalties. Quite death defying!
Pilots fly individually against the clock. There are 2 types of penalties – the 3 sec and the 10 sec one, which basically means that either 3 secs or 10 secs will get added to their clocked time.
Apart from that if they do what qualifies as dangerous flying – flying too low or crossing the crowd line they get disqualified.
If the plane hits an air gate, it is designed to break apart. Course personnel nicknamed "Air Gators" replace the damaged parts of the air gate. They were quite impressive. They took barely a few minutes to bring up a fallen air gate.
The races are held mainly over water near cities, but also at airfields or natural wonders.
And this year in London, River Thames against the backdrop of the 02 arena was the base for the race. Seating was arranged on both sides of the riverside. The air gates were floating on the river.
The day started with some other side activities before the qualifying races. There was the skydiving where a few guys jumped from the helicopter leaving behind them a trail of orange. That was good but what followed just took my breath away. The Helicopter Spinning or back flipping was mind blowing. A helicopter is a much heavier aircraft than the usual aircrafts used to do acrobatics and when it spun around in the air it left us all gasping with admiration. It's one thing to see a fixed wing aircraft do manoeuvres like that but it's totally different to see it being done in a helicopter. Then there was the Helicopter rescue sequence, which was also quite good.
And finally the excitement of the actual races as the pilots zoomed about. It wasn’t long before we had our favourites and mine was Péter Besenyei, the Hungarian.
All in all I had a great time!

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