As many of the stops on the World Championship calendar are classed as exotic, pilots often have to battle against the elements, with extreme heats, shifting winds and harsh storms always a possibility. As a result, no two Red Bull Air Races are ever the same.
1. START/FINISH GATE
Start and finish for the race
2. THREE TO FOUR TWO-PYLON GATES
Through which pilots have to fly straight and level correctly
Three indivisual pylons that pilots will have to bank around
4. VERTICAL TURNING MANOEUVRE
The pilots have to fly through the gate, then turn as quickly and efficiently as possible without pulling more than 10G in their raceplane
The iconic red and white 25m tall Red Bull Air Race conical pylons are a feat of creative engineering.
The Air Gates play a vital role in the Red Bull Air Race, but must also fulfil complex and contradictory demands. They have to be delicate enough to burst the instant they are touched by an aircraft but sturdy enough to remain stationary in all weather conditions, including stormy weather and strong winds.
The early cylindrical pylons fulfilled the first criteria – and to this date have been advanced through 30 rounds of improvements to make them even easier to tear apart – but proved to be too unstable in the wind. The answer to this issue came in 2009, when powerful electrical, petrol-powered blowers were installed at the base of the pylons to allow a perfect amount of airflow and pressure to be maintained within. This meant that the Air Gates could remain steady even in windy conditions.
Since 2004, the pylons were of a cone-shaped design and stood 20 metres (65ft) high. Since 2014 however, the height has been increased to 25 metres (82ft), and the shape has been revised to give the pylons a straight inner edge, creating a perfect rectangular flight window between the Air Gates.