Category Archives: Airshow News Air Sports

World Championship Air Race partners with air sports governing body

LONDON | The governing body of air sports, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), has formally agreed to partner with the fledgling World Championship Air Race (WCAR), with racing to begin in 2022.

More than a year after rumours began circulating, WCAR and the FAI this month announced the official successor to the much-loved Red Bull Air Race (RBAR) series, which ended in 2019. Racing is due to resume in the first quarter of 2022.

WCAR series director Willie Cruickshank, who previously served as RBAR’s head of aviation and sport, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new agreement between the FAI and World Championship Air Race to bring city-centre air-racing back to the public.”

“World Championship Air Race now has the commitment from the best race pilots in the world, flying the best aircraft, under the exclusive jurisdiction of the world governing body, putting us in a very strong position as we build towards Season 1 which we plan to debut in early 2022.

The FAI have granted WCAR with exclusive staging rights for manned air-gated air racing for at least the next 15 years. They will also provide safety oversight and governence for the new series.

RBAR pilots including Cristian Bolton, Juan Velarde, Mika Brageot, Kevin Coleman and Matt Hall took to social media to celebrate the announcement. Yoshi Muroya’s race team said they were in talks with WCAR and will announce their official participation when possible, while Matthias Dolderer posted: “Time to retire from retirement!”

Ben Murphy said: “The fastest motorsport on the planet is back & we’re excited to see the return of a new series! Since our 4th place finish in the RBAR 2019, we’ve been desperate for a chance to get back in the track & climb higher. We hope that chance comes in 2022.

Many RBAR competitors and organisers are expected to take part in the new series, with Jimbo Reid, Paul Bonhomme, Jim Dimatteo and Nigel Lamb all confirmed as members of the advisory board.

Initially, WCAR will have two tiers of competition: Aero/GP1, consisting of 12 race pilots, will be similar to RBAR’s Masterclass series, and Aero/GT will serve as a feeder competition, with less experienced pilots competing in three teams. Competitors will fly raceplanes familiar to fans of RBAR, such as the Edge 540 and MXS-R, but organisers hope these will run on sustainable, low-emission fuel in future seasons.

By the fifth season, WCAR plan to add two further tiers: VTOL/J, for jet-powered Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, and VTOL/E for electric VTOL aircraft.

They will also establish the WCAR Academy, helping to introduce new talent to the sport. The academy will be headquartered in the UK, with training facilities across the world.

Another major aim of WCAR is to expand the event to include side acts and live music performances. In advance of each race, an Aviation Tech Village will be established in each host city, to promote careers in the aviation industry.

Late last year, the sport got a boost from Greenpro, a capital investment company from Malaysia. Greenpro said the new series will be flying into cities around the world, with races planned in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, India, China, South Africa, United Kingdom and France. WCAR say they are “in discussions with lots of potential locations,” and plan to announce the first locations for season one in “the coming months.”

More details on Red Bull Air Race successor series, due to start in Q4 2021

LONDON | The much-loved Red Bull Air Race, discontinued in 2019, is set to return to the sporting calendar next year, with familiar names expected to take part.

The World Championship Air Race, first teased as a successor to the Red Bull Air Race in late 2019, was originally aiming to hold its first race later this year. However, following months of silence amid the coronavirus pandemic, some began to wonder if the plan to ressurect the global air racing series had fallen victim to the pandemic.

Relatively recent updates to WCAR’s website show that the idea is very much alive, with the first series now expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2021. “Once confidence levels are high enough to commit to exact dates for live events, we will announce full details of the WCAR race calendar,” the website says.

The sport will take place at a mix of new and old air race locations, including land and water tracks. Organisers are also hoping to incorporate a broader festival into the event format. Back in March 2020, organisers predicted a 10-race season, taking place in four continents.

Currently, all fourteen race teams that competed in the 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship Masterclass level have registered their interest in competing in the new series, along with new teams emerging from the Challenger Class. Many other familiar names will be returning to provide support and advice, with former RBAR Operations Managar Willie Cruickshank taking the position of Series Director. Former British racers Paul Bonhomme, Steve Jones and Nigel Lamb are also involved, as well as RBAR’s Technical Director Jim Reed and Race Director Jim DiMatteo.

The new series will be split into three tiers of competition: the top tier will be the AeroGP1, involving twelve race teams, with the second tier being AeroGT, a feeder competition involving three teams of up and coming pilots competing in a Le Mans-style relay format. Initially, these competitions will use the same highly-modified raceplanes as the Red Bull Air Race, WCAR hope they will be using sustainable biofuels by 2022, and will be converted to fully-electric power in the future. The aircraft will race around Red Bull Air Race style tracks marked by inflatable pylons.

The third tier will vocus on personal VTOL transport technologies, starting with “jet pack” vehicles in its first series. It is again hoped that this will shift to eletric-powered technology in the future.

WCAR has been recognised by the FAI as the official successor to the Red Bull Air Race, and has been granted an exclusive license to promote track-based air racing for the next 15 years.

Red Bull Air Race to be revived this year as the World Championship Air Race

One of aviation’s most popular sports series will make a welcome return just months after it was axed by its former title sponsor, Red Bull.

The World Championship Air Race (WCAR), established by Hong Kong businessman, banker and investor Michael Leung, is set to take off in the third quarter of 2020, according to an interview published on Open the Hangar Doors.

WCAR could only be established after the final series of the Red Bull Air Race ended in September 2019. With help from Red Bull Air Race pilots and officials, the new series received accreditation from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) – the aviation sports governing body – in December 2019. The next stage will be to set up the WCAR Academy, a training camp used to teach, mentor and test its participating pilots.

WCAR has also set up an aircraft electrification strategy and Mr Leung said his sport was committed to embracing electric technology.

Mr Leung said that he had a good relationship with former Red Bull Air Race host cities, and hoped to develop a global calendar of events over the coming years. He also said that he aimed to improve the race format, particularly for the Challenger Class, and to turn the Air Race into an all-round festival, with more for the crowd to enjoy than just the racing.

He added that, while setting up the new sport is an expensive endeavour, he was in the final stages of fundraising and expected to be able to reach his goal.

William Cruickshank, the former head of aviation and sport with the Red Bull Air Race, will be the series director of the World Championship Air Race according to the Italian aviation website MD80. According to MD80, Cruickshank is “100% convinced” that the new series will be able to take to the skies this year.

It was speculated that difficulty in finding host cities was a major problem in the final years of the Red Bull Air Race, but Cruickshank said he has approached new potential venues and recieved a positive response. Otherwise, Cruickshank said the format and rules would remain unchanged from the days of the Red Bull Air Race, at least for the short term.

The news comes just weeks after former race pilot Kirby Chambliss hinted that the series might return this year with a new title sponsor, having been saved by a Chinese investor. He said that, with Red Bull’s permission, he hoped to be able to participate in the new series.

The Blades, the racing team of Ben Murphy, have in the past expressed the intention to race again. They welcomed news of the new competition, tweeting: “Really excited to see that air race is returning! Wouldn’t it be great to have our Edge in the track again…

Challenger Class Dario Costa has also said he is involved in the new project and is excited to be racing again.

The Red Bull Air Race was created in 2003, but axed by Red Bull in 2019 due to insufficient outside interest. A total of 14 seasons and around 100 races were staged, with 14 pilots competing in the Master Class in the final years of the sport.

Kirby Chambliss hints at Red Bull Air Race revival

Former Red Bull Air Race world champion Kirby Chambliss has suggested the Red Bull Air Race may soon return to the skies, but without the backing of its former title sponsor.

Chambliss, who competed in every series of the Red Bull Air Race, was appearing on Show Center: The Airshow Podcast on the Tuesday 7th January to talk about his upcoming airshow season when he brought up the future of the racing series.

He said: “I’m hearing rumours that there’s a good chance that the races will be coming back. It won’t be under the Red Bull banner, but third quarter this year, there’s some pretty strong indications that a Chinese investor has taken it over, so we’ll see what happens.”

He also said that he hoped Red Bull North America, his long-time sponsor, would be happy for him to compete in a new series either under their brand, or that of a different sponsor.

Chambliss also said that, with no series this year, he would be stepping up his airshow participation, which sees him fly an Edge 540 as part of the Red Bull Air Force. The American pilot said he is already expecting to fly at 18-20 shows this year, up from 12 last season.

The Red Bull Air Race saw highly skilled pilots race modified race planes around a course of inflatable pylons. There were typically eight races per year in later seasons, in locations such as New York, Ascot, Gdynia, Perth, Indianapolis and Chiba. The series, which began in 2003, was cancelled in 2019 when title sponsor Red Bull withdrew its support, citing a lack of outside interest.

New airshow-based air racing series to begin in 2020

A new air racing series is to make its debut in October 2020, with a full calendar of races expected in 2021, JLC AirShow Management have said.

The Air Show Racing Series (ARS), developed by JLC AirShow Management, will see pairs of pilots race simultaneously along two identical chicane courses, marked by inflatable pylons. The planes will be lead into the track by a pace aircraft, before weaving between ten inflatable pylons around 180 metres apart, at a height of less than 75 feet. They will then execute a half-cuban manoeuvre and fly through the course once more, before a final half-cuban and a sprint to the finish line.

Each race will include two classes – Super Sport and Extreme Sport – with eight pilots in each class. The pilots will compete in a series of knock-out heats, with the winner of each class decided on the day.

In a press release, the company said ARS is “the newest and one of the most exciting additions to the air show industry” and describe the series as “a show within an air show”. John Cudahy, president of ICAS, praised the series as “compelling entertainment” and a “huge step forward” for the airshow industry.

The inaugural event is scheduled for Wings Over North Georgia in October 2020, with a full series to follow in 2021. This will take the ARS to multiple locations, with pilots accumulating points over the season to decide a winner for each division at the end of the year. JLC AirShow Management say that the ARS can form part of an existing airshow, or act as a standalone event.

John Cowman president of JLC AirShow Management, said that the sport has been under development for two years, with FAA certification coming in October 2019. Competitors in the series will be selected and invited by ARS management based on their airshow certifications and experience.

JLC AirShow Management are the organisers of the Wings Over North Georgia airshow, which began in 2012.

XtremeAir XA-41 and XA-42 banned from flying aerobatics

HECKLINGTON | Aircraft from the XtremeAir XA-41/Sbach 300 and XA-42/Sbach 342 family have been banned from aerobatic manoeuvres by the aircraft’s manufacturer.

Photo: James Connolly

XtremeAir GmbH placed restrictions on the highly advanced aerobatic aircraft family in a Service Bulletin on Monday 23rd September, which said both the left and right hand diagonal struts of the engine mount had been found to have separated during a routine inspection of an XA-42. The bulletin bans all aerobatic manoeuvres with immediate effect and requires a placard reading “AEROBATIC MANOEUVRES PROHIBITED” to be placed in the cockpit, in view of the pilot.

The manufacturer also says a ten-minute visual inspection of the engine mount must be completed before each flight. This inspection was previously required only once every ten aerobatic flights.

EASA published an Emergency Airworthy Directive the following day, which said cracks had been found on the engine mount, which “could lead to in-flight detachment of the engine, possibly resulting in loss of control of the aeroplane”.

Photo: Jim Lucas

The XA-41 and XA-42 are popular with airshow and competition aerobatic pilots, and are also used by aerobatic teams including Team Xtreme from South Africa, the Flying Bulls of the Czech Republic and the UK’s Matadors Aerobatic Team.

The aircraft had already been under the spotlight after cracks were detected in the engine mount during a separate inspection last year.

Matt Hall is crowned World Champion in final Red Bull Air Race

CHIBA | Australian pilot Matt Hall finally achieved his dream of being the Red Bull Air Race World Champion as Yoshi Muroya enjoyed a third emphatic victory at his home race.

Three times the runner-up, Hall soared to victory by claiming third place at the final race of the season, just behind home hero Yoshi Muroya and Kirby Chambliss. Muroya had a challenging day, losing his Round of 14 heat against Ben Murphds by 0.015 seconds, but progressed as the fastest loser and won every subsequent heat he flew.

RACE RESULTS

Race finish Pilot Country Race points Final time Penalties Quali finish
1 Yoshi MUROYA JPN 25 0:58.630 5
2 Kirby CHAMBLISS AUS 22 0:59.601 14
3 Matt HALL USA 20 1:00.052 7
4 Pete MCLEOD CAN 18 1:04.028 +5 11
5 Nicolas IVANOFF FRA 14 0:59.096 13
6 Mika BRAGEOT FRA 13 0:59.731 +1 9
7 Francois LE VOT FRA 12 1:02.936 +5 3
8 Ben MURPHY GBR 11 1:04.248 +5 10
9 Michael GOULIAN USA 5 0:58.032 8
10 Juan VELARDE ESP 4 0:58.180 1
11 Cristian BOLTON CHI 3 0:58.252 12
12 Matthias DOLDERER GER 2 0:58.409 4
13 Martin SONKA CZE 1 00:58.808 +1 2
14 Petr KOPFSTEIN CZE 0 00:59.774 6

2018 world champion Martin Sonka lead the title chase into the final race, but was knocked out in the Round of 14 heat against Nicolas Ivanoff when he picked up a one second Over-G penalty. He ended the season in third place overall. Ben Murphy, the latest pilot to join the tour, stunned with a fourth-place finish in only his second season.

CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

Position Pilot Team Country Total points Change
1 Matt HALL Matt Hall Racing AUS 81
2 Yoshi MUROYA Team Falken JPN 80
3 Martin SONKA Red Bull Team Sonka CZE 68
4 Ben MURPHY The Blades Racing Team GBR 48 =
5 Kirby CHAMBLISS Team Chambliss USA 48
6 Pete MCLEOD Cashback World Racing CAN 48
7 Nicolas IVANOFF Team Hamilton FRA 47
8 Mika BRAGEOT #11RACING Team Eyetime FRA 44 =
9 Michael GOULIAN Team Goulian USA 42
10 Juan VELARDE Team Velarde ESP 39
11 Francois Le Vot FLV Racing Team 12 FRA 34
12 Cristian BOLTON Cristian Bolton Racing CHI 27
13 Petr Kopfstein Team Speilberg CZE 10 =
14 Matthias Dolderer Matthias Dolderer Racing GER 6 =

Earlier this year, Red Bull announced they would be ending their support for the series, which began in 2003, due to lower than expected interest. The race organisers shortened this year’s series from eight to four races, and announced the series would not return in 2020.

Red Bull pulls the plug on the Red Bull Air Race

The Red Bull Air Race will wrap up for good after an abbreviated 2019 season, it was announced today.

In a surprise announcement, the Air Race said that “Red Bull has decided not to continue the Red Bull Air Race World Championship beyond the 2019 season.”

They added: “The Red Bull Air Race provided sports entertainment of highest quality but did not attract the level of outside interest as many other Red Bull events across the world. Red Bull thanks the pilots, their teams, partners, the host cities as well as the Red Bull employees for all they have done to make these enjoyable and memorable events.”

Just four of the eight planned races will go ahead this year: the Abu Dhabi round, which has already been staged, Kazan, Russia June 15-16), Lake Balaton, Hungary (13-14 July) and Chiba, Japan (7-8 September). Planned races in the USA and Saudi Arabia have been dropped.

Confirming the American race had been cancelled, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said they and their fans would be “disappointed” not to host the air race again. “We enjoyed watching the pilots navigate the unique course over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds,” they said. “We were especially excited to see American pilot Michael Goulian celebrate a well-earned victory last year.”

Customers who have already purchased tickets will receive a refund.

Martin Sonka, the 2018 World Champion, was the first pilot to comment online, describing the announcement as “really sad news” and indicating he had only heard of the decision earlier that day.

In a statement, Matt Hall Racing said: “While disappointed that a sport, which had significant potential to succeed, will be no longer, Matt Hall Racing express their gratitude to Red Bull for the opportunity to compete at the top level of aviation for the past eight seasons.”

The unique motorsport, which began in 2003, sees a selection of elite pilot flying highly-modified raceplanes around a course of inflatable pylons. More than 90 races have taken place around the world, in locations as diverse as Longleat in the UK, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA and the Swan River in Perth, Australia.