Short finals

Posted on: 10th Apr 2009

As expected, a veil of secrecy pervades the hangar here at Al Batten airbase in Abu Dhabi. It’s great to see everyone again. Beneath the wonderful spirit of aviator camaraderie, there’s a strong whiff of competitiveness and it’s clear that all teams have been flat out since Perth. It would not be in the right spirit to snoop too closely but looking from a polite distance, some of the Edges look fairly stock whilst others have radical changes. Paul Bonhomme’s appears to be the most modified. He has obviously focused big time on aerodynamics. That can be incredibly expensive...unless he’s had other support, I reckon his bank balance will be severely dented. Mike Goulian has covers over his wings so clearly there’s a secret hidden within. Kirby’s cowlings look unique so, apart from a new Edge (presumably very light) I guess he’s gone for power and maybe a bit of aerodynamics. Mike Mangold has led the field with modifications since 2007 and, since I saw nothing obvio us today, my current guess is that he’s focused on power. The three newcomers to the MXS (Besenyei, Rakhmanin and Hall) all seem very happy with the testing they’ve done and all comment on the ‘speed’. Welcome to the MX club fellows...of course it’s better than your last plane! but straight-line speed is not necessarily everything. Three of the four rookies have Edges. Yoshie has Steve Jones’ 2008 plane. Steve was always smart with modifications and has Roger Targett onboard; Steve was always very competitive so I have no doubt that Yoshie starts off in a very fast machine. At a glance there’s nothing obvious about the Dolderer or Mcleod Edges. If today I had to make a bet on the rookies, my money would be on Matt Hall. Solid background, as focused as any of the others could be and.... he steps straight into the MXS which Steve Jones (remember how sharply competitive and organised he was?) would have flown this season. If Matt is not already the rookie with the best machine, I reckon he’s in the machine with the most potential. Biased? Me? No way! Alex Maclean seemed quieter than usual but I know his technician, Jesus, spent months in N Carolina working on the plane and they’ve achieved the minimum weight or thereabouts. That and his strong finish to 2008 must make him feel comfortable about the battle ahead. Nicolas Ivanoff makes yet another change of machinery with a type jump from the failed racing Extra (that turned out to be a very bad choice!) to a stock(ish) new Edge 540. Apart from a beautiful looking tuned lightweight exhaust poking out from under his engine cover, I could not see anything but stock machinery. Nico is a great pilot so if he finally finds himself comfortable in a fast machine, he has the potential to be a big threat. Glen Dell is the quiet one. Having the experience of creating the Slick series of aerobatic aircraft, he has all the knowledge and resources to come out fighting after his rookie season. His Edge has definitely been tweaked plenty over in South Africa. Could he be this year’s dark horse? And what of the 2008 Champion? Well, his Edge was nowhere to be seen today. It has spent the last few months being worked on in S Africa but why was it not in the hangar today with the other 14? Does the title ‘current champion’ warrant the privilege of a private hangar to ward off prying eyes ?? or is there something else afoot?