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Star local pilot switches from Hungarian plane

The following story is from the April 10-23 print edition of the Budapest Business Journal.

Hungarian aerobatics pilot and renowned world champion air racer Péter Besenyei (pictured) is planning to switch to American Edge 540 aircraft from the Hungarian Corvus Racer 540 in the Red Bull Air Race series, starting with the Budapest race on July 4-5, the pilot tells the Budapest Business Journal. 

“Unfortunately the wing profile and the fuselage of the Corvus Racer 540 is not suitable for Red Bull Air Race type of flying, though I need to note that it is a very good plane for air shows and performing acrobatic stunts,” says Besenyei (pictured). “If it had not been for a [Red Bull type of] race, where tenths of seconds count, we would have never realized that the plane is not able to make tight turns,” the pilot adds.

The Corvus being the only Hungarian – indeed the only European – aircraft in the series, Besenyei feels sorry about being forced to switch to the American Edge 540. “Simultaneously with me flying the Edge in the series, we will keep working on the Corvus, and that is the plane I will [still] be using for air shows and performing acrobatic stunts,” the pilot notes. Besenyei says that, in the long-term, he hopes to improve the Corvus Racer to make it suitable for use in the series once again.

Budapest had featured in the Red Bull racing calender since its inception in 2003, and in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship since it started in 2005. It had been due to host a race in 2010, but that was cancelled, and the entire series was postponed from 2011-13 while the format and safety features were overhauled. Racing resumed in 2014, and returns to Budapest for the first time on July 4-5, 2015, over and along the Danube in front of the imposing Parliament building. “I am very happy that the series is returning to Budapest, which is one of the most spectacular venues of the series, and it is also one of the most popular,” the Hungarian pilot says.

Budapest will host the fourth race in the world championship, following Abu Dhabi (UAE), Chiba (Japan), and Rovinj (Croatia).

A unique feature of the Hungarian venue is that the start gate is generally under the Széchenyi Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), which means a recorded lap starts with the pilot maneuvering his plane under the bridge. “The plans reveal that the start gate would be under Lánchíd, though it is dependent on the water levels of the Danube, however, considering it is summer, we expect it [the river] to be low,” Besenyei explains.

The pilots have already completed the opening race of the season, in Abu Dhabi, where Besenyei finished seventh. “I was satisfied with finishing seventh place, as last year’s experiences have unfortunately shown that the plane is no longer suitable for the race,” Besenyei tells the BBJ. In fact, the Hungarian pilot says that it would have been more realistic expectation to finish further back.

According to the pilot, this year’s head-to-head system of qualification, where a pair of pilots race against each other with the winner advancing to the final four, “is unfortunate as you can get into the best four with a slower time and could be eliminated from the final four with a faster time”. Besenyei noted, that his seventh position in Abu Dhabi was chiefly due to this new system.

Péter Besenyei is often called the “godfather” of the Red Bull Air Race, as the Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull asked him in 2001 to help develop the concept of an air racing competition and lay down the rules and regulations for it. He was the first person to test fly through the now standard air gate pylons (including a deliberate clip to make sure they safely disintegrated as intended).

The Corvus Racer 540 was designed in 2007 by András Voloscsuk and the Hungarian University of Aviation specifically for and with Péter Besenyei. The official site of Red Bull Air Race suggests that the aircraft has already attracted attention from other race teams, including Team Bonhomme.