“These are some of the best pilots in the world and it’s a pleasure to watch them fly here in Abu Dhabi,” said FAI President Dr. John Grubstrom. “We are very happy to be here, helping ensure Red Bull Air Race run a safe and fair competition.”
The FAI helps the Red Bull Air Race in several ways, including the provision of medals specially designed for the race, official approval of the race Rules and Regulations, inclusion of all races in the FAI calendar, and a safety delegate who attends all Red Bull Air Race events.
“My role is to supervise all the aspects of the Red Bull Air Race from the perspective of the FAI,” noted FAI Safety Delegate Ben A F Ruijs. “Red Bull Air Race make the regulations and I check them. If I have comments I make them on behalf of the FAI.”
“I’m looking at the aircraft if they are fit to fly, and if the pilots are fit to fly,” he continued. “All the safety aspects, plus to see if it’s fair. In short, we check on the safety and we also check that Red Bull Air Race are complying with their own regulations.”
FAI involvement is key to helping make the Red Bull Air Race fair and transparent, according to FAI officials. The FAI act as an objective eye, devoid of commercial, political or partisan considerations.
“In one word, the FAI adds quality,” explained Ruijs.
A former Chief of Flight Safety in the Dutch Air Force, Ruijs has been FAI Safety Delegate to the Red Bull Air Race since 2008. This year he will attend six of the eight Red Bull Air Races around the world, while his FAI colleague, Fredy Ramseier, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Swiss Air Force, will attend the other two.
Safety-wise, what elements is he looking for?
“You watch out that pilots are in full control. That they know what is going to happen, that they are proficient and that they are anticipating what is coming,” he explained. “If pilots are flying erratically or are behind the power curve – that is, reacting a little bit late – then you have to do something about it.”
What is it like acting as the bridge between the FAI and the Red Bull Air Race?
“First of all Red Bull is very professional, very disciplined. They only have the best pilots, so in this way I have an easy job,” he said. “But because I am standing aside and am not involved in the decision making process then sometimes I can help. We do it together.”
The Red Bull Air Race will visit eight locations this year, including Abu Dhabi, Spielberg, Austria, Chiba, Japan, Budapest, Hungary, Ascot in the UK, the Lausitzring in Germany, and Indianapolis and Las Vegas in the United States.
FAI, also known as the World Air Sports Federation, is the world governing body for air sports and for certifying world aviation and space records. The FAI was founded in 1905 and is a non-governmental and non-profit-making organization recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
FAI activities include Balloons and Airships, Power Flying, Gliding, Helicopter flight, Parachuting, Aeromodelling, Aerobatics, Hang Gliding, Microlight and Paramotor Flying, Amateur-Built and Experimental Aircraft, Manpowered Flying, Paragliding and all other Aeronautic and Astronautic sporting activities.