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San Francisco Airshow: Part 2

posted Nov 01, 2005

Airshow Day

Mike Mangold's Red Bull Air Race run (static image from video)

View the video of Mike Mangold’s run through the San Francisco race course that won him the 2005 championship title.
1:22 minute video / 8.5 MB download

Red Bull air race action shot

Kirby Chambliss shows how it’s done. He came in 3rd place for the 2005 series.

Saturday’s weather was perfect for an air show. No fog, no clouds, just clear blue skies with a little wind. We enjoyed fresh seafood for lunch before strolling west towards Municipal Pier. I had purchased reserved seats to make sure we had a good view for the show. The $20 tickets turned out to be a bargain considering that we had reserved seats right on the water. The reserved area provided plenty of room for us to walk around and enjoy the show without being trampled by the crowds behind the gate.

The Red Bull Air Races were truly amazing! The original purpose of our trip here was to see the Blue Angels. I’d seen a few stories on the Red Bull Air Races, and I thought that would be interesting to see too. Well, after seeing both performances, I’d have to give the Red Bull Air Races top billing. Don’t get me wrong, the Blue Angels put on an incredible airshow and their countless hours of practice clearly pay off as they are able to keep their airplanes so close together through many difficult maneuvers. They just shouldn’t have tried to follow the adrenaline-packed hour of the Red Bull Air Races. I never thought I’d say this, but the Blue Angels were a little boring to watch in comparison to seeing planes racing just a 1/4 mile away from us and less than a 100 feet off the water, flying knife-edge through the race gates. At one point during the races, I turned to Nancy and said, “I think we might become air race groupies.” She smiled and nodded heartily in agreement.

The folks who run the Red Bull Air Races did a great job of keeping the excitement going. After one racer finished through the course, the next one was ready to start in less than a minute.

Sandwiched between the Red Bull Air Races and the Blue Angels were performances by famous airshow pilot Sean Tucker (who happened to have his biplane parked right near our Mooney in Oakland), and an Air Force F-16 demonstration, along with a “Heritage Flight” where the F-16 flew in formation with an F-86.

Earplugs were definitely required and luckily a local hearing clinic was distributing them free to encourage people to protect their hearing. Phil and I laughed as we watched people yelling into their cell phones while the jets were thundering overhead. I kept looking for the guy from the Verizon commercials: “Can you hear me now?” Equally funny to us were the people trying to capture the airshow on their cell phone cameras.

Our words really can’t do justice to the great time we had at the airshow. Here are a few pictures (and one video) to give you some sense of what we saw. There are even more videos at the Red Bull Copilot website

The story of this trip continues with the .

Red Bull air race action shot

Nigel Lamb was first through the course on race day

There’s not much straight-and-level flying. Notice the smoke trail leading sharply down before the pilot banks 90 degrees to get around the gate.

To get a sense for how small the gates are, look at the large view of this image and notice the video cameraman standing on the platform. He’s near the base of the second gate from the left. His shoes are about 12 feet above the waterline.

Kirby Chambliss has a bit of fun by skywriting a question mark before the clock starts for his race. Why a question mark? Maybe just to make us all wonder.

No time for skywriting now. Kirby comes through the gate with the Golden Gate bridge in the background.

Sean Tucker’s performance. He put on a great show and really had fun with the crowd. Nancy and I especially enjoyed when Sean was broadcasting to the crowd while flying various acrobatic stunts.


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