14 October 2014

RBAR Road Trip!

Photo courtesy SandCastle Son  c2014
We took a weekend road trip to the Red Bull Air Races and hang out with my cousin & family.

The course itself didn't look terribly exciting compared to some they've come up with in the past, but considering the venue, it still promised much exciting racing.

Saturday was a beautiful day only a bit hot due to the harsh Sun.  We arrived around 1030-1100 to watch some pilots practice a bit.

Then reviewing the schedule, discovered we'd arrived about 3 hours too early.  That meant a lot of time standing around in precious shade avoiding the sun and purchasing exorbitantly priced food  & drink just to ward off heat stroke and dehydration.  The food wasn't just bad, it makes the pre-cooked stuff at your corner gas station five star cuisine by comparison.  And of course they don't allow any outside food or drink.

Protip: Pack a cooler for lunch and leave it in the car.   Then plan a midday tailgate! (in & outs are allowed on the ticket).

Finally the qualies started.  to my grand amusement,  one of the announcers clearly is not familiar with speed units "Knots"  (abbreviated kts).  The announcer breathlessly called out starting speeds as "197 knots per hour!", or "199 kilometers per hour".  He'd occasionally get it right and just call it "knots".   For those unfamiliar as our announcer, suggest check reference 9b here.  The SCQueen suggests his normal job is probably announcing American motor races, not international air races.  Methinks she's on to something...

So with the Sunday schedule in mind, we arrived much later with the intent of catching the actual racing.  The flags standing at full attention provided the first clue something was amiss indicating a stiff wind.  The pylons are intentionally made of a very flimsy material so that an inadvertent touch will not harm the aircraft.  But in windy conditions it makes for pylons that dance around quite a bit.  this is especially a problem for the air gates where they seem to simultaneously either bend together or apart.  My cousin pulled out his smart phone and checked winds at Nellis AFB.  The ASOS was reporting winds 0, calm.   We disbelieve!  North Las Vegas (VGT) told a more realistic story, some 26G30.

The first two pilots both clipped a pylon or two, though the next several raced clean, truly a testament to their skills.  Still  the decision was made to suspend qualies due to the winds.  It was about time for us to leave due to travel constraints.  As we headed out to the car, the wind in my face felt  even stronger, I'd guess pushing 40 kts.  I mused... "I wonder what makes them think the winds are going to die down any time soon."   (long discussion on what causes those winds and when might they end interesting only to weather geeks omitted.  couple hints; "air masses" and "not today buster!")

And sure enough, the winds never did ease enough to resume racing.  So our call to leave early was proven correct.  And we were not alone in leaving after qualies were suspended.  Legions accompanied us to our cars.

Race organizers offer 50% off tickets to next year's race due to the lack of racing.  Quite frankly this surprised me as they did not even come close to filling the seats.  I'd guess 10% capacity at best and fully expected their decision would be "well this was a bust, let's regroup next year!"  Also weather conditions in this area go through a major shift mid October where daily high temps will drop from mid-hi 90's to mid-hi 70's over a period of three days.  They need to push it back a week on the calendar.  But no...  2015 is already on the calendar

I'll probably sign up for the "refund".  Though it's really a  credit towards next year's event, assuming it does.  They say it's on the schedule, but with such a dry turnout, what will be different next year?

This episode of the RBAR will air on Monday Oct 27 at 7PM ET/4PM PT on Fox Sports 1.


Merle said...

40 kt winds when you are going that fast that close to the ground is a bad thing!!!


NotClauswitz said...

The commercial I saw for that with the plane goign through the slalom was rather amazing! There's a couple of owners with little stunt biplanes down the hill in the airpark here, maybe I should learn...

Old NFO said...

Those races are worth watching... :-) And the pilots clank when they walk... 10Gs in the turns at 50 feet...