April 6th-The day was off to a normal start, I was ready to leave for the Red Bull Air Race in Croatia! My name is Stan Gray and I work for Red Bull, the Red Bull Air Force and Team Chambliss. On the way to LAX at 0430 to catch my flight that was scheduled from Los Angeles-Atlanta-Rome then Trieste, Italy, yeah, it’s a long way to Trieste, Italy!
Everything was going great! I arrived in plenty of time to check in and even have breakfast. Boarding went as planned, taxied out to 25L and that’s when things got interesting! We started the take-off roll and the pilot aborted the take-off, exited the runway to inform us of a problem indicated by the engine warning alarm. We sat on the taxiway for an hour and I began to get worried about my layover in Atlanta, which was an hour. In the meantime we went back to the gate and finally pushed back an hour later. Now two hours late…What about my connect? The agent said not to worry, there was a large group connecting to Rome and they would hold the plane for us. Great, except that did not happen….I realized that they had re-booked me on a flight from Atlanta to Zurich, connecting in Munich, Germany. It didn’t seem so bad, I could meet up with Kirby and the rest of Team Chambliss in Munich.
Arriving in Atlanta, we taxied to A15 and I had 10 minutes to get to F9. If you have ever been to the Atlanta Airport, then you know this is impossible! I ran all the way to F9, got to the gate to find the door closed! Not a good feeling! I was then re-booked on a flight to Paris, leaving in three more hours and had to be at the gate two hours early to get a seat assignment. There I was two hours early and 6th in line…Huh. Good news, I have seat 63A and I’m having a hard time believing there are 63 rows on this airplane. Ten hours later we arrived in Paris and you’ll be happy to know that the Paris-Rome flight went as planned! Another three hour layover and we were off to Trieste. I arrived in Trieste, but where’s my luggage? Waiting for the verdict, my luggage was in Rome and I was somewhat surprised it made it that far…
April 8th-The rental car company was open, still needing to drive two hours to Rovinj, I headed that way. My credit card was declined due to possible credit card fraud, finally got that worked out. Did I mention that the Hotel in Rovinj is on an island and the shuttle boats stop running at 12:30am? Yes, I caught the last boat to the hotel! Thirty-eight hours after I left home, I’m at the hotel and on my way to the room. Yea! I fall asleep about 0200 and get the wake-up call at 0600 to help assemble Kirby’s airplane!
My luggage did arrive the following evening and now I have a story to tell!
Rovinj, Croatia, a small medieval town on the Adriatic Coast. Team Chambliss spent just over a week in Croatia preparing for the Red Bull Air Race!
As I write this update, Kirby is on his way back to Arizona. Thirty hours and three flights later, he’ll be home. Team Chambliss is still in Croatia beginning to disassemble the airplane for the trip to Malaysia. Kirby and the rest of the Team have worked very hard, incredibly long hours to make this week happen.
Here is what Kirby had to say about today’s pylon hit on the number five gate…”It’s going to be catch up, but I don’t have any excuses. It’s little bit windy out there. I was trying to run fast… I’m really disappointed, my team worked really hard to get the plane ready but it’s all on me out there on the track.”
Signing off from the Red Bull Air Race in Croatia 2014!
Red Bull Air Race Qualifying Day came and went, lots packed into one day. The pilots had two training sessions of five minutes each and also had their two qualifying runs. Kirby was pleased with his first qualifying run and was disqualified on his second run for exceeding the entry speed. This left him in seventh place overall and is confident he can make the super eight tomorrow. Due to the new format Kirby will be facing Yoshi tomorrow in the first head to head heat.
For everyone outside the United States, the race will be live on redbullairrace.com, and can be caught on Fox Sports 1 in the USA. Kirby will be the first to fly tomorrow, don’t forget to tune in!
Team Chambliss found training day very interesting! Kirby was so excited to finally be able to fly the course after a week of building, testing, calibration flights, meetings, interviews and water training! Whew!
Kirby did a fantastic job today and made clean runs that many pilots did not. The down side is that one of the gates will be moved for qualifying tomorrow. The gate will be moved overnight and each pilot will have a chance at the track, several times before qualification. The Team was bummed, because this was going to be a huge advantage for Kirby. Kirby has seen the new layout and feels great about it! One thing for sure, this will be an exciting race!
Day three in Croatia and the Team is finally beginning to acclimate to the time change, must be time to go home! Kirby had three test flights today and they all went great! Jason came up with a new inlet design which would have been awesome, but didn’t work out as planned. Temps were too high on the cylinders and we had to move to Plan B. Great effort and thanks for all the hard work Jason!
The plane is flying great and the Team is excited to see Kirby’s run through the track! Tomorrow is a very busy day for everyone!
By the way, we had a photo shoot today and Kirby is excited to share some of these shots with you! Stay tuned!
Day two in Croatia and we were off to an early start! The Team met for breakfast and we all left the hotel together in the speed boat headed to the airport. Jason and Danny finished up the airplane, got ready for the test flight, but wait a minute, Houston we have a problem! The fuel truck that carries 100LL actually had Jet A in it…..To make a long story short, there was no Av-gas at the airport. Thankfully, Matthias had flown his personal plane into Rovinj, so all the teams siphoned fuel out the wings and had enough fuel to get their test flights done. We tend to be very resourceful!
Kirby flew over the track and was happy that it was a bit more challenging than the course in Abu Dhabi. Although he still really misses the quatro from the previous years. The Team was happy with the test flight and we’re pumped about this race and hoping for excellent results! By the way, thanks for all the great support!
This evening we all enjoyed the BBQ dinner with everyone at Air Race! Day two has come and gone, time flies when your having fun! Till tomorrow….
Our first day came and went in Croatia. The entire team is still getting use to the time change which is a nine hour difference from our homes in Arizona. Jason, Stan and Danny headed out to the airport early getting the airplane put together while Kirby went to his underwater training.
Kirby did multiple water training tests in a modified MXS airplane cockpit. He would be placed in the cockpit, in the water, upside down in a pool and the rescue team would rescue him. Kirby had to wait for 45 seconds, which he said felt like forever, while water filled the cockpit. Imagine that! Kirby said that his scuba experience really helped!
The crew at the airport made great progress today, both wing and tail are on, and the plane should be ready to fly tomorrow after a few minor checks.
The hotel we are staying at is on an island, which means that we use a ferry service to reach the mainland. It sure will be nice to get a good night’s sleep! Team Chambliss signing off for now!
Will you #CatchKirby? September 6th and 7th at the Texas Motor Speedway, the Red Bull Air Race is coming to town! www.redbullairrace.com
Kirby and the Red Bull Air Force at the Flying Crown Ranch, Red Bull Air Force Training Camp! Loaded with adrenaline, creativity and high flying excitement! Photo by Michael Clark