Imagine speeding through an obstacle course at over 200 miles per hour. Take that image, then put yourself in a lightweight, single-propeller race plane maneuvering through a course
-- which will be stationed over the Hudson River, adjacent to Ellis Island -- while sustaining forces up to 12 times normal gravity (G force) as the plane weaves through inflated pylons at just 10–20 feet above the water.
Even the reigning King of Hudson River Aviation
, Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, would be impressed.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship
, first held in 2005, will set up one of its uniquely designed courses with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop on June 19 and 20 in New York City
, the fifth of eight stops on the series.
The league previously visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and Perth, Australia. Michael Goulian
, a Massachusetts native and one of two American pilots, was on hand at Red Bull's expo in Times Square on Wednesday to discuss the air-racing experience.
"It's like a boxing match on a Ferris wheel," Goulian tells Asylum. "But like any sport, when you're at the top of you're game, there's no sound and you're in the zone."
Without rigorous training and flight experience, though, most of us would need hundreds of "motion discomfort bags" and diapers
long before reaching that zone.
Keep reading for more about Red Bull Air Racing and the June 20 race in New York.
The competition itself is conducted as the 15 racers take turns weaving through the course's predetermined aerial racetracks marked by pylons, similar to slalom skiing. Any departure from the track or failure to perform a flying element results in disqualification, and minor errors are penalties against a racer's time.
"The sport is very, very objective," says Paul Bonhomme
, the 2009 champion who hails from Great Britain. "It's a race against the clock. It's 100 percent competition and the 3-D freedom is second to none."
"Air racing differs from auto racing because our courses are in free space and there's some sideways drift," says Goulian. "Wind is a big factor for us."
Although the pilots race through individually, which distinguishes the sport from NASCAR, there is certainly danger
enough. Goulian says the biggest in-air danger is a blackout
(no, not that kind), a momentarily loss of vision caused by blood loss to the head.
"With G forces so high, it becomes the major competitor other than the other pilots," says Goulian. The racers, who have backgrounds in the military and commercial aviation, must sturdy themselves against G forces through physical training and simply by flying often. Goulian addresses the most obvious danger as a matter of fact.
"You just can't have an accident," says Goulian. "We take every safety precaution. In aviation you always have to bring the aircraft home."
Ricky Bobby, this is your chance for a sequel.
Click here for ticket information. The New York air race will also be televised live on June 20 on FOX and FSN.