Oshkosh-Bound Aerobatic Pilots Soar in Windsor
Red Bull Air Race Championship Series Plays Canada for First Time
Story and photos by H.G. Frautschy
Michael Goulian hit a pylon race day during the Windsor Red Bull Air Races.
Detroit's Renaissance Center serves as backdrop for the Red Bull Air Race Championship series in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Kirby Chambliss flips into a left bank as he aggressively flies off the Detroit shoreline in his Edge 540.
June 18, 2009 — Two world-class aerobatic pilots scheduled to perform at AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 thrilled the international crowd lining the banks of the Detroit river during the Red Bull Air Race held June 13-14 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Kirby Chambliss, EAA 261512, IAC 12086, who won the races based across the river in Detroit last year, placed third overall while Mike Goulian, EAA Life Member 259398, IAC 11878, finished 6th.
Chambliss was excited about his Edge-540’s new Lycoming IO-540, even after a technical inspection resulted in a modification to the pistons to reduce compression. “We’ve gained 30-40 horsepower, which will really help with our course times,” Chambliss explained. Like any strong competitor, he declined to outline just how the gains were achieved, but acknowledged that each pilot and his technical crew worked very hard to control weight in the racers and the engines that powered them through the course. The engines in the race planes produce over 327 horsepower, but none of the competitors or their mechanics will tell you exactly what their engines are actually putting out.
The five-time US National Aerobatic Champion is clearly frustrated by his current position - 11th overall - in the Red Bull World championship standings. He and his team are working hard to move up in the three remaining races, but a return to the top is virtually out of the question. Chambliss, who won the series in 2006, would like to see the circuit expand to 10 races.
Chambliss’ crew chief is Oshkosh native Jason Resop, EAA 734766, who on race day reviews tape, strategizes about lines and other preparations, “Then we go back to the plane to make sure that everything is 100% ready,” Resop said. “Kirby never looks at the plane. He just goes out there and jumps in it, so he counts on me pretty much that the plane’s 100 percent ready. If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault.”
Resop, an accomplished pilot himself, regularly flies the Edge 540 and looks forward to the day when he can race in the Red Bull series.
Goulian was also excited about the engine work done for his race plane, also an Edge 540. “We had a tough start to the season, and now, Lycoming and the Thunderbolt program made some really significant gains in horsepower so we’re hoping we’re closer to the pace now,” he said.
He said the short Windsor course forced the pilots to show their top aerobatic form. “This track is all about survival. The way they place the gates makes it almost impossible to get though sometimes...you have to be thinking two or three gates ahead to try to get through the third gate, so, for instance, if you get gate number 2 wrong, you’re never going to get through gate number 3, which makes gate number 4 wrong; it’s one of those things where you really have to be really ahead of the airplane.”
“We showed good poise in the first and second race but the wind changed and nobody saw it. That’s the way it is with the pace of things here – you don’t get to study everybody else first. You can’t plan – you just roll and pull and when you get around the 270 on the quadro, what you see is what you get. And today what you saw was a face full of pylon! You just can’t salvage that and I thought Nigel [Lamb] did a very professional thing by just pulling around and going out of the track.”
Mike Mangold placed fourth after smooth runs through qualifying and final rounds, although a clean slice through one of the horizontal pass pylons cost him a few penalty points during a qualifying race. His solid flying put him in a position to collect some championship points of his own.
“It just shows that anything can happen,” Mangold said. “It was a perfect example of people making a lot of mistakes and those can be of benefit. It shows how unpredictable this thing is and how important clean flying is in a situation like this. I have to offer my congratulations to Paul – he flew very clean.”
That would be Paul Bonhomme of the United Kingdom, who won first place with a very clean run through the final course in a time of 1:08:16, the fastest time of the day. He now trails championship leader Hannes Arch by only one point as the Red Bull Air Race Series heads into the second half.
Canadian rookie pilot Pete McLeod pleased his hometown crowd while scoring his first championship point with a solid showing in front of his family and an appreciative crowd. The godfather of the Red Bull Air Race series, Peter Peter Besenyei, was unable to compete after an oil system failure during a photo shoot caused him to make a forced landing in a field just outside of Niagara Falls.
Besenyei was unhurt when his MXS-R/Edge 540 racer flipped over after the landing, but he was forced to sit out the race while his plane was being shipped back to the factory for repairs. He expects to be racing later this summer, when the series continues in Budapest, Hungary (August 19-20), Porto Portugal (September 12-13) and Barcelona, Spain (October 3-4).