How changing times keeps us busy between races

Posted on: 28th May 2009

How times have changed! When this sport was in its infancy, the only aircraft available were standard aerobatic types...Sukhoi, Extra 300 and Edge 540. Pilots turned up accompanied by an available engineer to race in their unmodified aerobatic machines. Sure, these were capable but they were inadequate in many ways. The Sukhoi was so draggy, it’s racing days were destined to be short lived; the Extra has simply fallen by the wayside...even the 300SR which was specifically designed to race. Only those capable of being highly modified have survived into 2009. Throughout 2005 and 6, small modifications appeared ... small fairings mostly .. then, in 2007 Mike Mangold set the trend for mods which were far more air race specific ..cowlings, wingtips, etc. This is what has kept the Edge 540 alive as a racing machine. Given that its design dates back to the early 90’s this is truly remarkable and it will be very interesting to see if the Edge’s star will fade in the next few years as the MXS continues to be developed towards its full racing potential and other designs enter. To take a high performance aerobatic aircraft design and adapt it for air racing takes time; too much time, a lot of effort and a lot of money. But it has to be done. The Red Bull Air Race has become incredibly competitive. Gone are the days when the modifications took place in the winter. Throughout 2009, each team will be scheduling improvements depending on the time available between races and where the plane will be on the planet. Team Breitling totally rebuilt the MXS in the winter to achieve the principle objective of weight saving. No-one has done a better job than Hux. Along with a few other teams, we’re on the minimum race weight and most of the others are pretty close. We have a new engine which we hope is putting out the power it should but short of doing dyno comparisons, you never really know. Some of our aerodynamic mods are still in the pipeline .... to design and then produce and test some of the more complex ideas takes many months. Then where do you do the work? For our next attempt to gain a tiny percentage advantage, we’ve decided to wait until the MXS passes through England. With luck, we’ll have the time to install and test a modification which will have taken almost 9 months from the drawing board into service. IF it achieves the performance gain we hope for, I have no intention to calculate the cost per second gain. Whatever it may be, it’ll be an eye-watering number but... better than a cost for no gain.....all fingers are firmly crossed! Meanwhile, what’s our strategy for the Windsor race? Don’t get too technical during the practice sessions...just go for it!