November 13, 2018 10:45 pm

Wednesday, We Take Flight to the Extreme with Red Bull Air Racing

We’re taking flight on this week’s episode of Playing with Science. No, not in a space shuttle, or towards a basketball rim, but in an actual airplane doing things that are, sometimes, beyond the realm of imagination. This week, we explore the radical, jaw-dropping world of Red Bull Air Racing.

Photo of Kirby Chambliss, performing a "knife edge" maneuver in his Edge 540 in Perth, Western Australia during the final leg of the 2006 series. Credit: Myself (Hamish) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Shown: Kirby Chambliss, performing a “knife edge” maneuver in his Edge 540 in Perth, Western Australia during the final leg of the 2006 series. Credit: Myself (Hamish) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Our hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly are joined by a panel of air sport experts including adventure journalist and frequent StarTalk guest Jim Clash, Technical Director of Red Bull Air Race Jim Reed, and Kirby Chambliss, Red Bull Air Race pilot and two-time World Champion. If you’ve never seen a Red Bull Air Race, take a moment and watch the epicness that occurs in the air during one of these events.

Before we get to the Red Bull Racing, we check in with Jim Clash to give us a lesson in speed. Usually when Jim’s on Playing with Science, he’s telling tales of his death-defying adventures – and this episode was no different. Since we are strictly air-focused this time around, you’ll hear about Jim’s supersonic flights, all four of them, and what it feels like to be thrashed around with an incredible amount of G-force pressed against you. You’ll hear about Jim’s time in the Concorde aircraft – the turbojet powered supersonic passenger airliner – and Gary tells us some British espionage history behind the making of that aircraft. We go inside the cockpit of an F-15 to find out what it felt like to go faster than Mach 2. Plus, Jim talks about the experiential difference between flying supersonic and flying on a course in a Red Bull Air Race plane.

Next go behind-the-scenes with Jim Reed as he explains the difference between the Master Class and Challenger Class categories of racing. We discuss course layout and what Jim and his team focus on when building a course. Jim also tells us how he found ways to cheat during his time as an engineer – and how he looks for ways teams try to cheat now that he’s on the other side.

Lastly, Kirby explains how he got started in aerobatics and why he wanted to make his flying “three-dimensional.” You’ll learn why he never checks his instruments during a run, and you’ll hear why the course is a living, breathing track, constantly subject to change.

Please join us tomorrow night for Extreme Flying – Red Bull Air Race right here on our website, as well as on our Playing with Science channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen

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