Getting race ready – a gruelling task

The Red Bull Air Race is a true test of both pilot and machine. For the pilots, race weekend is all about focus, precision, strategy and peak performance. For the team technicians, it's also about optimum output, fine-tuning and mechanical perfection.

With the World Championship racing taking place across the globe, the World Championship calendar demands that the raceplanes must be shipped and transported across three continents and eight different race locations. Each change in location means the raceplanes have to be disassembled, packed, unpacked and then reassembled. Now that the raceplanes have arrived in Spielberg, it's time to get these machines ready for flying next week.

Raceplane assembly and breakdown ready for travel is a gruelling task that must be carried out carefully and accurately – any mistakes or issues at this stage could have a significant impact come race weekend. But the teams and couriers are experts, and confidently handle this critical process before and after each race.

Hannes Arch's Team Technician Nigel Dickinson is nothing short of well-versed in getting the team's aircraft race-ready. He has the process down to an art so that even in his absence the team is able to get up and running after arriving on location. Organisation is key.

"It takes about six hours to take apart, wrap and box, and eight hours to rebuild," Dickinson explains. "I have a simple plastic box with dividers so I can separate the different bolts and where they came from."

Dickinson points out that one of the biggest and trickiest jobs is detaching the wings. Although these large components aren't particularly heavy, they require help from two or more team members:

"The wings are awkward because you have to disconnect the controls from the stick," says Dickinson. "You also have antennas in the wing and a pitot tube for the speed, so all that has be disconnected." But that's not all. Dickinson also points out that the fuel lines and fuel tanks also have to be disconnected, and the wing tanks need to be drained and blanked off. It's an intensive task, and every step needs to be done in the right order, with care and consideration.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

When it comes to moving the raceplanes from location to location, if shipping by sea freight, typically a raceplane will fit inside one container by placing the wing box in first. The tail box is then placed on top before sliding both down to the end of a container. The frame of the raceplane is pulled into the container by its tail, and the tail wheel is then placed on top of the wing box to ensure that the airframe remains level. The toolbox is the last piece of kit to be secured inside the container.

The transport logistics are well-honed, but there's one factor that can affect this critical transport process – the weather. A typhoon in Chiba in 2015 caused a delay in transport and reassembly of the raceplanes, when all infrastructure had to be moved offsite temporarily until the adverse weather passed. Now it's only a matter of days before the reassembly process is kickstarted once again, as the teams head for the second stop of the Red Bull Air Race in Spielberg. So far, so good. The roar of Lycoming Thunderbolt engines will be heard once again above the skies of the Red Bull Ring on 23-24 April. Tickets on sale now!

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