This is the space occupied by the pilot during the competition, which must also withstand intense forces and high speeds. Finding the balance between a competitive plane and a safe one is one of the greatest challenges the teams must face. The standard competition engines in these planes have been prepared to ensure they are reliable and prevent failures mid-flight. The pilot’s seat has a five-point harness and a ratchet system that provides two additional points. The restraint provided by this system is the strongest available. That is why it must also have a quick-release system if required. If all of these measures fail, the plane has a pyrotechnic system that will eject the plane’s dome if the pilot needs to jump out with a safety parachute.
There is also a regulation which states that pilots must not exceed 10 g for more than 0.6 seconds, and they must never go over 12 g.
The inflatable pylons are an important feature of the course. They must therefore be perfectly safe and not entail any risks for the pilots. They are made of material that easily bursts so that, if there is an impact, no damage will be done to the plane and the pilot will not be injured. In addition, their height was raised by 5 metres in 2014, increasing the safety margin to 25 metres from the ground.
The track itself has safety areas that may not be exceeded and make it possible for pilots to perform the necessary manoeuvres to escape dangerous situations. Similar to other motorsport competitions, they spare no expense on emergency personnel, with a medical team including a surgeon. The specialised rescue team has a helicopter and scuba divers if the race is over water. To coordinate rescue efforts, the control tower receives real-time information on all participants and organisation members.
Just as MotoGP riders have protective equipment adapted to their needs, Red Bull Air Race pilots also have specific material. It is always important to protect pilots’ heads. They are therefore required to wear a safety helmet, which almost always has a visor. The G-Race flight suit helps pilots withstand g-force, which poses the greatest danger to pilots. To do so, the suit presses down on pilots’ bodies, preventing blood flow from concentrating in their heads or legs as far as possible.
The pilot also has a parachute and an inflatable life jacket for races over water, in addition to an oxygen cylinder and mask. Pilots do not only receive equipment, but also specialised training to successfully face up to any emergency situation, for example, if they are trapped in the cockpit with the plane overturned in the water. They must also receive specific training to withstand g-force while piloting the plane.
Fortunately, accidents are a rare occurrence at the Red Bull Air Race. However, it's always best to be cautious and protect the most valuable thing we have in the competition: the lives of the pilots and course staff.