Competing in the Red Bull Air Race is surely one of the most amazing ventures any aviator could hope for in a career. Sometimes, we all have to stop and look around to realize how lucky we are to participate in such an incredible sport! As I was flying to London ahead of this week’s race, I started thinking about that, but I was also thinking about how many challenges exist in putting together and fielding an Air Race team. All the logistical issues of traveling, shipping or ferry flying the race plane from one location to another and keeping it safe and fast are, in themselves, tough tasks.
But inherent to motorsports of any sort, development is key and will most likely be the highlight of the careers of the most successful athletes and teams in any sport. If you or your machine ever stop improving, you’re now moving backwards from your competition. Since this season started, we have shipped our Edge 540 to Abu Dhabi, and it’s not been “home” since. Any of the improvements during the season have involved a lot of planning and preparation, and most of the work has to be done away from the airplane.
On the pilot side of things, the challenge is both physical and mental. To arrive at one of the race locations physically fit is vital. Being mentally rested is just as important. The task for the first few days after arriving on-site is to catch up with the jet lag. After that, trying to stay focused on just flying and keeping all of the other tasks and distractions at bay are essential to top performance.
For 2015, the addition of Steve Hall, our new Race Tactician, was a huge step up. Steve is an MIT Aeronautics professor and is able, through sophisticated programming and analysis software, to generate ideal course predictions and slightly different racing line adjustments based on meteorological conditions. Having Steve work through the track helps me achieve the task of focusing on flying.
So, here I am at Wycombe Air Park just outside of London. Pablo and Dax are finishing up some new mods to the plane while I sit and study the Ascot track. I can already feel the emotion of race day starting to build within our team. But for now, I have to close my laptop and do a test flight to see if our mods are working as hoped!!!
Cheer on Mike and Team 99 as they take on the course at the Royal Ascot Racecourse in the United Kingdom via Red Bull TV. Live stream begins on August 14.