Red Bull Air Race Pilots Choose Arizona Desert For Training <


Bookmark and Share


Red Bull Air Race Pilots Choose Arizona Desert For Training

Daniel Guevarra

March 4, 2010 - With only weeks to go before the first stop of the 2010 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, pilots are seeking optimum training conditions in order to be fighting fit for the Abu Dhabi race at the end of March.

It seems the Arizona desert is an ideal location for putting any recent modifications to the test as well as providing favorable weather for flying.

Pete McLeod – one of last year’s four rookies – has been based in the arid southern US state for the past few weeks, as well as defending world champion Paul Bonhomme and Arizona resident Kirby Chambliss.


For Canadian pilot McLeod, the opportunity to migrate to a warmer climate means he can keep on track with his 2010 pre-season training schedule. Back at the team’s base in London, Ontario, temperatures were below freezing while in Arizona, McLeod took full advantage of the mild conditions and continued his training without any risk of snow flurries. 

McLeod has been busy with a combination of test and training flights since arriving in Chandler, just outside Phoenix, during February and says things are progressing well. Team technician Ted Reynolds has also been working hard since the final race of 2009 last October to vastly improve the set-up of the team’s Edge 540. The Canadians are pinning their hopes of success on the overhauled machine. 

“Coming out of 2009 with basically a stock Edge we were really starting at zero,” says McLeod, who finished his debut season with one championship point, collected at his home race in Windsor, Ontario. “The focus was put on what we believe were our two main problem areas: weight and power. To reduce weight we started from the ground up with a complete tear down, new paint and a number of new lightweight components. We also have a new engine from Lycon and hope that should help too.” 

McLeod has dedicated the past year almost entirely to racing and says apart from briefly returning home to Red Lake, Ontario, during hunting season and at Christmas, he has been flat out running the team. With a clear goal in mind to win the championship before he reaches 30, this ambitious pilot is prepared to put his social life on hold to realise his career objectives.

“Unfortunately there is not that much else going on in my life other than racing right now,” admits the 25-year-old, who recently took up surfing to provide a relaxing antidote to the hectic racing lifestyle. “I’m learning slowly and wish I had more time to spend in the water. I find it relaxing and a much different pace to the Red Bull Air Race. There has been an increasing amount of administrative type duties that at times can really take away from my ability to focus on sport and flying.” 

The young pilot also says he’s not had as much time in the cockpit as in previous years and is conscious that his tolerance of G-forces may have taken a hit. “I’ve flown a lot less this year – not really by choice but the season is starting earlier and we have been working on the plane longer than hoped,” explains McLeod. “Hopefully a second race plane in the future will allow me to train more effectively.” 

McLeod holds his hands up when asked about the lessons learned in his debut season and admits he wasn’t expecting such a gap in performance between his raceplane and those of the top pilots. 

“To be honest I was quite surprised,” he confides. “Big factors that stood out were power and weight. I think a lot of guys realised the importance of power and weight compared to aerodynamics in 2009. We have dropped the weight considerably but not had a chance to heavily focus on aerodynamics, which I think some other teams who were light last year will have had a chance to do.” 

One such team that has placed great emphasis on increasing power is title defending Team Bonhomme. With a new engine set-up and significant weight loss to the airframe, technician Wade Hammond has been cocooned away in Arizona for the past couple of months refining the already super aerodynamic race plane in anticipation of the 2010 season. 

Also relocating to Chandler in the final weeks leading up to Abu Dhabi, Bonhomme fled the inhospitable conditions in the UK in order to gain all-important time at the controls of his Edge 540 and to assess Hammonds engineering efforts.  

“Due to the time constraints of squeezing so much into February, Team Bonhomme has mainly been test flying and setting up the aeroplane to be ready for the first race,” explains Bonhomme from his base at Chandler. “We’ve been testing two engines as well as the new set-up of the aeroplane. Wade has been working hard and it’s all paid off. We’re happy so far with our results.” 

The British world champion was happy to be testing alongside McLeod and Chambliss, pointing out that the hospitality in the USA was just as warm as the climate. 

Arizona is a great place to operate from as the weather is generally superb – or at least ten times better than the UK at this time of year,” he adds. “We’re also incredibly lucky to fly from Chandler where we are looked after so warmly by the locals… they are amazingly friendly and are always on hand to help out if it’s needed.”

 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share


AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator