Red Bull Air Race 2008
May 5, 2008 by Bryan
US Navy and Coast Guard
The Red Bull Air Races were held May 3rd and 4th, 2008 in San Diego California. We were able to attend on the 4th and take many great pictures. Before the races themselves started there were many side acts and flybys. San Diego is home to many Naval Ships and has a huge military presence. I’ve been to air shows before but none of those compared to this in terms of how close we were to the action and how slow the flybys were. In this photo you can see the heritage flight formation where older aircraft fly side by side with the current generation fighter jets. It’s funny to think that the F-18 will soon be one of the old aircraft too. The first thing you notice here is that the other two planes are propeller driven. The F-18 can fly really slow. How slow? Well so slow you think it’s hovering when you are looking at it from the ground up. The pilot does this by flying at a high angle of attack. The F-18 has the ability to fly at an almost unlimited angle of attack. That means that the wings are pointed up in relation to the air stream and the movement of the aircraft. So why am I telling you all of this? Well of course because the pilot did such a low-speed, high angle of attack flyby. In this photo you can see the pilot tipping the wing right after powering up from the low-speed flyby.
The demonstrations were not limited to fighter jets though. The Coast Guard demonstrated a hoist rescue as you can see in this photo. These helicopters are huge and being underneath one is like being in a small hurricane. I found this out first hand as one flew right by the shore and then leaned left. Jamie’s hat flew about 50 feet.
And last but not least is the crazy maneuver of the Navy divers who hook themselves onto a tether and get pulled out of the water by a seahawk while using no hands. All I have to say is that these guys are nuts! I also wonder how they get down from there. I guess I will never know. Now to the racing itself.
When the planes prepare to enter the course the air control tells the pilot “smoke on” which tells them to turn on the smoke so the officials can see the flight line and to enter the course. The course is just over 3.5 miles long but it is contained in an area of about 1 square mile. These highly advanced aerobatic prop planes fly at or sometimes over 300 mph. This makes for a very exciting race. The course is defined by a series of air gates. These are conical towers made of a very thin nylon and inflated with air. If a plane collides with a gate it just bursts apart leaving the plane undamaged.
Here you can see what they call the “Quadro” where four air gates are used. The pilots fly through this group of gates twice in two different directions. Since it was so bright outside, shooting these planes was easy… except tracking them was hard. These things moved really, really fast!
Here is a photo of the winner. His name is Paul Bonhomme from Britain and he beat American Mike Mangold in the final by just over a second. See more great shots in the Gallery.