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

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.

Finance officials meet to map out Saudi Arabia’s budget plans

Updated 19 April 2019

Finance officials meet to map out Saudi Arabia’s budget plans

  • Finance representatives of 150 government bodies meet for the Budget Forum 2020

RIYADH: Saudi finance chiefs have kicked off a major conference in the capital aimed at mapping out the Kingdom’s budget requirements.
Around 300 specialists representing 150 government bodies met at the InterContinental hotel in Riyadh for the Budget Forum 2020.
Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan welcomed delegates to the second edition of the gathering organized by the Saudi Finance Ministry under the slogan “Partnership and Empowerment.”
Al-Jadaan said the ministry was focused on “partnership and commitment,” and sought to share the challenge of developing an effective budget to achieve the Kingdom’s ambitious goals.
“We are also committed to empowering financial leaderships to learn about the ministry’s programs and projects and provide training and qualification opportunities to the best international standards,” he added.
The finance chief said the budget planning process required the collaboration of multiple authorities and a clear strategy based on transparency. 
Items up for discussion at the forum included financial planning in governmental bodies, automation, and the promotion of revenues and efficient spending.
Finance Ministry steering committee chairman, Abdul Aziz bin Saleh Al-Freih, stressed the importance of the forum in getting the ball rolling at an early stage on formulating a general state budget.
Workshops were held on the sidelines of the conference focused on empowering government organizations, and a training program on financial planning and income estimations was also staged.