The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an official World Championship, accredited by the FAI – The World Air Sports Federation.
The Red Bull Air Race features the world’s best racing pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight race planes, pilots hit speeds of 370 kph while enduring forces of up to 10Gs, as they navigate a low level slalom track marked by 25-metre-high, air-filled pylons. It is a visual spectacle unlike any other – a pure combination of high speed, low altitude and extreme maneuverability!
The pilots of the Red Bull Air Race can all be identified by their race planes. As with any motorsport, the unique paint scheme is there to show the team and stand out from all others. And this brings us to Porto, the capital of Portugal, where the 2017 Red Bull Air Race happened on 2-3 September and featured an extremely unexpected “racing” bird – the float-equipped Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss firefighting amphibian!
Being part of the recreational program at Red Bull’s Porto race and flown by pilot Carlos Craveiro – the pilot with 24 firefighting seasons experience and the most Fire Boss flight hours in the world (4.500+ flight hours in an AT-802 with a total time of over 8.000+ flight hours) – the Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss overflew the Douro river on three occasions both days of the air race, amusing the crowd with a demonstration of its low-altitude speed (OK, it’s not a race plane, dudes!), agility and above all water-bombing firefighting capabilities.
Interesting to note is this particular Fire Boss was indeed the 700th produced AT-802 Air Tractor. Configured as a single-seat AT-802A, serial number 802A-0700, the aircraft that now bears Spanish civil registration EC-MRT was rolled out of Air Tractor’s Olney, Texas-based factory 20 March 2017. After flight testing and granted with all necessary documents, the aircraft was flown across the Atlantic Ocean to its owner, Air Tractor’s long-time dealer for Europe, Africa and Middle East – the Spanish, Valencia-based company, Air Tractor Europe.
The aircraft was outfitted with a pair of Wipaire’s Wipline 10000 floats at Avialsa T-35 EASA Part 145 maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Valencia. The Fire Boss was promptly dispatched to Portugal to fight deadly wildfires there. During one of those few days of low fire risk, the Fire Boss wrote history as the first Air Tractor to take part in the famous Red Bull Air Race World Championship. ALL PHOTOS: Luis Andre Diogo