Friday, 8 August 2008


Last Saturday I betook myself to the Red Bull Air Race. I have to admit to being a bit of an anorak about flying, ever since my wife bought me a flying lesson for my 50th birthday. The venue was the River Thames, within sight of the O2.

You may not be au fait with air racing, so here it is in a nutshell. Pilots in high performance single engined planes have to negotiate a series of "airgates" (large inflatable columns made of some kind of plastic) in the fastest possible time. Some "gates" have to be flown through in level flight, others at a ninety degree angle, and single "gates" in a line are treated as a chicane. At the end of the first lap, pilots execute a complete loop to do the course in reverse. Penalties are awarded for flying too high, too low, or flying at the wrong angle.

The current world champion is (you've guessed it!) from the good old US of A. However, British Boeing 747 pilot Paul Bonhomme is doing very well this year, albeit he didn't win the London heat. In my humble opinion, RBAR is rather more interesting (and, indeed, exciting) than Formula One racing, where the driver who starts in front generally stays in front. Curiously, it receives next to no coverage in the media, the honourable exception being Channel 4, which broadcasts a one hour programme on Saturdays during the racing season.

Should anyone reading this have a passing interest, you can find out more at

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