Formula one air racing is based on a very technical set of rules that makes sure all airplanes have the same basic specifications – the same formula. These rules include important limitations such as:
- Each plane must have wings with a total of at least 66 square feet of area.
- Each plane must weigh over 500 pounds.
- Even the pilot has to be over a certain weight or he/she must wear more weight in their flightsuit.
- The engine must be a stock 100 horse power Continental O-200. Some modifications are allowed.
- The aircraft must have fixed landing gear and a fixed pitch propeller.
- Every plane must be filled with 5 gallons of fuel.
- And many more interesting regulations…
These rules are strict in order to allow planes to compete on an equal basis. But there is still a lot of room for each plane to be quite different as long as they fall within the guidelines of the formula.
– During the race, all airplanes start together on the runway in what is called a “standing start” – just like car races. Up to 8 airplanes line up in rows on the runway and when the green flag is waived by the judge the race begins!
– Airplanes then take off together and they are already racing. They must perform a left-hand circuit, which means a left turn around an circular race course (very similar to the one used in NASCAR in the USA).
– The airplanes complete 8 laps. Each lap is 5 km in distance and takes less than 1 minute to travel flying at speeds of up to 450 kph.
– To guide the airplanes around the course there are six race markers, or “pylons” that are placed to create an oval pattern. They are numbered 1 through 6 for reference purposes. The airplanes fly down to 10 meters altitude to hug the course and maintain the tightest race line.
– Pilots may pass each other throughout the race. Overtaking should be performed on the outside (the right side) unless the plane being passed is flying a very wide circuit. The safety of the maneuver is always the responsibility of the airplane trying to pass – great care must be taken to make sure it is safe!
– To overtake another airplane, a pilot must usually generate at least 7-10mph of speed differential and they must make it quickly or lose the opportunity. To gain such speed a pilot may have to start the maneuver from a higher altitude to convert height into energy at the right moment. Sometimes a better race line is enough and other times one plane is just faster than another and wins the battle.
– An airplane is not permitted to fly inside of a pylon. If a pilot cuts inside a pylon a time penalty is given. A pilot may even be disqualified for big errors.
– In the end, the first plane to cross the finish line is the winner. This is real racing! True motorsport at its fastest!