At the Red Bull Air Race World Championships, the planes fly low but the stakes are high. Pilots fly at 230 miles per hour while maneuvering through inflatable pylons less than 100 feet tall. To navigate the course as quickly as possible, pilots often sustain forces up to 10G while performing vertical turning maneuvers. Any wrong move, even the failure to breathe correctly, could spell disaster. Which is exactly what makes air racing so impressive as a spectator sport.
For the first time in eight years, U.S. aviation fans will get the chance to witness the event in person in San Diego over the weekend of April 15-16, one of just two stops this year for the series in the States. The course will be set up in San Diego Bay, with all the low-flying action taking place over the water. The last San Diego race was in 2009 and drew 55,000 spectators. There, the danger of the sport was realized when Nicolas Ivanoff of France won by just over a second after the previous leader, Hannes Arch of Austria, suffered a bird strike that punctured his horizontal stabilizer.
This year, two-time champion Kirby Chambliss along with fellow American Michael Goulian will represent the United States in a tough field of international competitors, including last year’s champion, Matthias Dolderer of Germany. After San Diego, the event will fly to Japan, then Hungary, and finally on to Russia for the first time before returning to the U.S. for the final race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October.
Tickets for the San Diego event are available now, with general admission starting at just $20 for the qualifying day on Saturday, April 15, or $25 for race day on Sunday. Full weekend tickets start at $35, and hospitality packages start at $350 and offer a variety of amenities.