What it’s like to fly for the first time in a Red Bull Air Race plane

Red Bull Air Race is the world’s fastest and most intense air contest. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 03 April 2019
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What it’s like to fly for the first time in a Red Bull Air Race plane

  • Our reporter takes a front-seat in an Extra 300 LX plane in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province
  • The flight lasted about 30 minutes, 10 of which were spent in stunt flying

RAS TANURA: Sharqiah Season has featured a lot of firsts for Saudi Arabia. First-time concerts for stars such as Pitbull and Akon. First-time events such as the performance by Cirque Eloize in Dammam. But the season also provided some great first-time experiences with the Red Bull Air Race offering a chance to fly in one of the most exciting planes on earth.

When the Red Bull Air Race, the world’s fastest and most intense air contest, held a demo event in Dammam in its second week, Arab News was invited to ride with the pilot and enjoy a front-seat view of the aerobatic “flips and turns” that take your breath away.

The pilot, Patrick Strasser, has more than 20 years’ flying experience and told Arab News he knew he was destined to fly when he was a child.

Strasser began flying when he was 14, and has flown commercial aircraft, air ambulances and now aerobatic planes.

As an aerobatics instructor and trainer, he has won national aerobatic championships and represented Austria in the European Aerobatic Championships.

 

 

“I can fly any kind of plane, but these are the kinds I like best,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Strasser is competing in the Red Bull Air Race for the first time, making his Challenger Class debut this season. “There are just a few pilots in the world who are allowed to do this, and it’s an honor to have the trust of Red Bull Air Race,” he said.

Although Strasser races in an Edge 540 V2, the plane Arab News flew in was an Extra 300 LX. This tiny aircraft looks like it could barely seat one person, let alone two, but with a powerful 300hp engine it can fly at speeds of up to 340kph.

The flight lasted about 30 minutes, 10 of which were spent in stunt flying. However, the intensity of the stunts, as well as nervousness, made the flight seem much longer than it actually was.

The stunts were nothing short of phenomenal. The experience of having a plane you’re sitting in suddenly flip upside down, or to look up and see seawater right above your head through the transparent aircraft canopy, is difficult to describe. However, the adrenalin rush is exhilarating, provided you remember to stay relaxed and breathe steadily.

Strapped tightly into a tiny airplane seat, clutching the straps of the parachute you pray you won’t have to use, you are utterly helpless as the plane races through the air. A blue air sickness bag is tucked up your sleeve, and you pray you won’t have to use that either. But the views? Utterly stunning.

During such a high-intensity flight, five times the normal amount of gravity are applied to the body, mainly the head and neck. Pilots normally wear liquid-filled pressure suits to ease the effects of gravitational forces, so it stands to reason that they would have an easier time of it.

Strasser is no exception. With enviable nonchalance, he returned to the communications room to fill out his flight log, seemingly oblivious to the fact he had been corkscrewing a plane through the air a mere 10 minutes earlier.

To sum up, this Arab News reporter can only say the Red Bull Air Race season finale in November can’t come fast enough. And it’s obvious who the newsroom will be cheering on to take home the gold.


Saudi Arabia's King Salman offers $1m to International Civil Aviation Organization

Updated 17 June 2019
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman offers $1m to International Civil Aviation Organization

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has provided $1 million to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Saudi Press Agency reported Monday.

The announcement came as part of the “Kingdom’s efforts in supporting international organizations and bodies and the leadership’s keenness to play an important role in the most important international and regional organizations,” SPA said.

The aid will go towards supporting ICAO’s No Country Left Behind (NCLB) initiative, which aims to assist developing countries in applying the standards and recommended methods for the safety and security of civil aviation.

The aid will also contribute to the costs of translating the organization’s documents and publications into Arabic.

The President of the Kingdom’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdulhadi bin Ahmed Al-Mansouri thanked King Salman for his support to the aviation sector locally, regionally and globally, 

He said: “this contributes to the development of the aviation industry and to improve the safety and security of civil aviation in developing countries, least developed countries and island states.

The $1 million of financial assistance is an extension of the Kingdom's previous financial support in 2016 which “ the level of safety and security of civil aviation in the Middle East and Africa," Al-Mansouri said.

Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO’s president, thanked the king for the support.