The Red Bull Air Race World Championship’s first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 was very special for Courageous Fliers Grace, Shawn, and Tommy. Aside from seeing some amazing flying, the three participated in the opening ceremonies! Grace and Shawn each rode with a race pilot in a track parade of historic pace cars from the Indy 500, while Tommy got a special, up close visit to the hangars where the sleek, speedy racers are made ready for flight.
The competitors must navigate a course of “air gates” consisting of tall, inflatable pylons. One at a time, pilots weave through and around the pylons in a series of timed qualifying races. Precision is a must; penalties are incurred for infractions like flying above a gate, not passing through with the wings sufficiently level, or clipping a pylon with a wingtip. The pilots with the four fastest runs then take one more shot at the course and the finisher with the fastest time wins. Germany’s Matthias Dolderer capped an exciting afternoon of blazing fast, low-level twists and turns by earning a victory that clinched this year’s series championship.
“Participating in the air race activities has been great for Flight1,” Marcus said. “Our Courageous Fliers had a fun time and we had the chance to meet some new people who are excited about our program. Talking with them laid the groundwork for potential partnerships that will enable us to help even more kids.”
It was also a special day for a long-time Flight1 volunteer – me. I completed my first assignment – a blog post describing the first flight for Courageous Fliers Ashaya and Dacian – in August of 2012. But I live near Atlanta and did my writing via the internet, so Sunday was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Flight1 founder Marcus Strawhorn. The warmth and hospitality of Marcus, the Courageous Fliers, and their respective families touched my heart and was very much appreciated.
On a historical note, it was the Red Bull series’ inaugural visit to the world-famous Brickyard, but it wasn’t the first time airplanes have competed there. An event touted as the “World’s Greatest Aeroplane Races” took place at the Speedway in June of 1910, even before the first running of the famous five-hundred-mile auto race, which began the following year. A pilot named Walter Brookins made history at the meet, taking a plane owned by the Wright Brothers to an amazing new altitude record of 4,384 feet. It seems incredible now to think the world record altitude was one our Courageous Fliers sometimes eclipse on their very first flights.
Flight1 continues to help children’s’ self-confidence soar through fun, educational activities set in the exciting aviation community. Our donors are the fuel for this important mission, so please consider contributing today!
Story: Russell Goutierez