The MX and the Red Bull Air Race
The MX brand of aircraft first flew in the Red Bull Air Race in 2006; back then, it was still a fledging race series, and the MX2 was a two-seat aerobatic aircraft.
Nigel Lamb was the pioneer who flew the MX2 in its early form, and the factory could see the value in building a race-spec aircraft rather than an aerobatic-based one. They developed the MXS-R – the single-seat version – and in 2009 it burst onto the scene, with five Red Bull Air Race pilots choosing to fly the MXS-R.
The main difference between the MXS-R and the Edge 540 is that the MXS has a composite carbon fuselage, known as monocoque, and the Edge has a steel tubular fuselage with carbon and fabric coverings. This should make the MXS stronger, but from a practical point of view it makes it more difficult to modify when compared to the Edge. Three-time World Champion, Paul Bonhomme, explains: “Some teams have moved their oil coolers further back in the Edge, which helps with cooling and centre of gravity, but that would be an enormous task in the MXS and would involve changing the structure of the aircraft. Whereas in the Edge, it is easier because you do not have to change the structure, just the covering.”
From the pilot’s perspective there are also several differences. Matt Hall owns both an MXS-R and an Edge 540, and he points out some of these: “The MXS is a slightly faster and cleaner aircraft in its basic state, and is also quieter inside – that helps with pilot comfort. It also carries its speed better in the track when flown smoothly.”
Comparing at the raceplanes side-by-side, the obvious difference is the placement of the wing. The Edge's wing sits midway up the fuselage, while the MXS has a noticeably lower wing. Due to its monocoque structure, the MXS has a more aerodynamic presence and there is more room in the cockpit, increasing pilot comfort. However, handling is a lot more sensitive, so while the turning radius is smaller, it needs precise settings to be easier to fly.
#11Racing Team Eyetime is currently the only outfit in the Air Race flying an MXS-R. Mika Brageot, the team’s pilot, first started flying the aircraft in 2015 when he was part of the Master Mentoring Program, learning the ropes under Nigel Lamb.
Brageot agrees with Hall about the design of the raceplane: “The monocoque fuselage makes it very smooth with no joins – nice and clean for aerodynamics. Inside the cockpit it’s quite spacious and, again, it’s clean – there’s no tubing getting in your way, just a nice moulded space to sit. It’s also a sleeker looking plane. As a racing team, we need a very efficient and fast aircraft, which is manoeuvrable and comfortable for the pilot – good looks are also a plus!”
Brageot believes that there is still a lot of potential in the MXS-R, and his team are still developing ways to improve it. “The MXS had proved it was capable of winning a Championship in 2014, so it was a natural progression to take on the MXS after Nigel retired and I moved into the Master Class,” he said. “There's still so much I’d like to do with it – there are plenty of modifications that will improve performance – we’ve barely touched the surface. Every modification needs to be developed to make sure that they work and are safe when we get down into the track and, most importantly, we need to be able to revert back if necessary. So in the next couple of seasons, I hope to make the MXS as competitive as possible!”