Red Bull air Races in Detroit – Saturday – Part 2

This is a regular blog post. Please check out the other posts if you’re looking for show notes or audio.

I spent a little time at the public pit walk at Detroit City (Coleman Young) Airport (KDET) this morning. Really stinkin’ neat for any number of reasons. First is the other control tower that Red Bull brought in for the event. An apparently fully-functional control tower that’s customized for the race and fully portable. Unreal! Let’s get this thing to Fond du Lac during AirVenture Oshkosh this year!

This is really neat. There’s a full pit line with all of the aircraft and pilots in an L-shape. Between 9:30 and 11:00, the public can come in and freely walk the pit line, talk to the pilots, and get autographs. The lines are really reasonable and it would surely have been possible to obtain all of the pilots’ autographs within the space of an hour or less. I didn’t really feel compelled to talk to anyone other then Mike Goulian, but I did walk right up and got headshots of all of the pilots within 20 minutes.

I think that this is absolutely brilliant on the part of Red Bull. Make the pilots and the aircraft as available as possible and build bonds between present and future fans through access. Every single staff person (even security guarding the ingress/egress and tower) was cordial and friendly. The guy guarding the media center door went out of his way to look for my media pass and proactively invited me in.

Red Bull is really nailing it with this model. The fans really seemed to appreciate it. Especially the kids. No MLB or NBA, this. Red Bull is going out of its way to give as much access as possible. I didn’t see any access restriction at all that didn’t make sense in at least some way (e.g. airport security, integrity of the aircraft, etc.). How cool is this?

I kind of think of it as NASCAR without as much ass crack and beer. Am I wrong?

On another note, with the event being held in Detroit and all, I have high hopes that the audience will include lots of black and other minority folks. You’ve heard me complain that aviation in general is overwhelmingly male. It happens to be overwhelmingly white, too. I’m sure that (at least since the 1970s) been much more de facto than de jure, but any change is going to require that we get minorities (and especially minority kids!) up close and personal with 100LL, Jet-A, and JP-8.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t see as many minorities at the pit walk as one might have hoped, what with City Airport being right in the heart of an overwhelmingly black population. Lots of folks down on the waterfront (which is great!), but I hope that we see more at the pit walks over the coming years which, to me, would be an indicator that there’s more interest. I say that because you kind of have to work at it to get to the airport and then park and then hoof it to the flight line. The demographics of those who show up at the airport (as opposed to the waterfront) are probably more indicative of who the faithful and the obsessed are, or at least more so than the general population.

Not going to make a big deal of it, but you guys know me and know that I’m all about encouraging as many humans as possible to get into general aviation. Black, white, green, purple, Nova Scotian, you name it. If you’ll stand still long enough, I’ll tell you about GA. It there’s a population for which a special approach or more exposure would help, I’m all about it. And, by the way, I think that holding the race in Detroit in the first place is a great step.

(By the way, I tend to use the term “black” instead of “African American” becuase not everyone who’s black is necessarily American and because Thurgood Marshall preferred the term “black” and that’s more than good enough for me. I hope no offense is given because none is intended. Prefer otherwise? No problem. But you have to let me talk GA to you.)

We got to touch base again with Mike Goulian of the USA, who flies the No. 99 Edge 540. He’s also an airshow performer and appeared on Airspeed in November of 2007, featured in a July interview from the Battle Creek airshow. He finished fifth in the 2006 series and eighth last year. He hasn’t had a podium finish this year, but posted a second place in one contest during the 2007 series. He was upbeat and the only concern he seemed to have was the wind out on the course, which was exceeding 34 knots as I post this.

Kirby Chambliss of the USA, pilot of the No. 4 Edge 540 for the Red Bull team, takes time with a young fan. Kirby signed the little guy’s shirt which, from the looks of it, had already made the rounds of several of the other pilots. Chambliss finished first in the 2006 series and brought home third and fourth in 2005 and 2007 respectively. He has placed third in one contest so far this year.

Yeah, another tower shot. Not sure what this guy is doing, but who cares? A completely mobile control tower is just so cool!

Just heard that the winds caused the organizers to cancel the qualifying flights this afternoon. They’re planning to fly tomorrow and the weather looks good with mostly sunny skies forecast and winds of around 10 from around 300. I’ll be there the whole day with Rod and we’ll try to do a little hangar flying and post an audio episode from the media center.