Do you know how Juan Velarde’s aircraft is assembled for the Red Bull Air Race? Find out how from his mechanic, Ted Reynolds

Do you know how a racing aeroplane is assembled and disassembled? Or how the fuel tanks are filled and maintenance is carried out? Ted Reynolds, no. 26 Juan Velarde’s team mechanic from Canada, is here with the Box Repsol blog to tell you all you need to know about the fastest competition in the air.

Hello to all the Box Repsol fans!

I’m really excited to be able to tell you about my work and what it’s like to be a mechanic at the Red Bull Air Race. When we travel to a race, just like when we go on any trip, we have to prepare both before we set off and when we arrive. My main responsibility is to assemble the plane when it arrives at the race location. First, I check that the plane hasn’t been damaged during the journey — even though transport company does an amazing job carrying our equipment, accidents can happen. So, we can never be too careful.

The plane is relatively easy to assemble and is flyable in around 10 to 12 hours. It might sound like a long time but, at the end of the day, we’re talking about an aeroplane. The assembly process is also the perfect time to install new race equipment or get some extra work done. Seeing as we spend a lot of time doing this, we’ve modified our aircraft so it’s easier to assemble and disassemble. All the time we save means more time Juan can spend flying.

Refuelling and maintenance

Are there many differences between a MotoGP mechanic and a RBAR mechanic? A bolt is a bolt, a tyre is a tyre and a piston is a piston, whether it’s on a car, motorcycle, or aeroplane, so there isn’t much difference in how things are done. Of course, the big difference is if there’s a problem with the aeroplane, you can’t just pull over to the side of the road and repair it. This means we need to be fully concentrated on our work and make sure everything is perfect on the ground before taking off.

We don’t do as much maintenance as in MotoGP, but the flights are a lot shorter than a motorbike race. We inspect the aircraft down to the smallest detail before and after each flight. Just in case, we have a number of spares available, such as wheels, a canopy, and cylinders.

The last thing we do before the flight is to refuel the aircraft. There are three fuel tanks: one 85-L tank on each wing and a 50-L tank in the fuselage. The aircraft is actually capable of flying long distances, but for races and acrobatics we only use the fuselage tank. In fact, if we used the wing deposits, they could get damaged by the fuel centrifuging out towards the wing tips.

Unforeseen hiccups, problems, and other complications

There aren’t usually many surprises during disassembly, but we do take notes to see what we need to order or change when we reassemble the aircraft. A part can take weeks to arrive, so we need to plan ahead. Sometimes I do repairs or make adjustments before the race weekend to avoid any problems. As with all sports, there are always things beyond your control that can happen, and just about everything turns into an adventure.

Something that you’re probably not aware of is that all the teams help each other with repairs. Otherwise, some aircraft wouldn’t be in perfect condition and this would be bad for pilot safety. These repairs are full of surprises and are often carried out late at night. We’ve been involved in overnight engine changes, including one on our own plane! When you’re a race mechanic, the challenges just keep on coming and you need to think fast and improvise constantly. Teamwork is really the most important thing.

I think that most people don’t realize how resourceful you have to be to do this job. It’s impossible to know and have experienced everything yourself so you have to listen and ask questions constantly in order to be truly effective. I’m never “home” when I’m doing this job, so I constantly have to rely on the people surrounding me. Sometimes we have to ask favours and we wouldn’t be able to do this if people didn’t help us.

So, that’s all for now, but make sure you don’t miss the pure adrenaline, excitement, and teamwork of the Red Bull Air Race — three things that @box_repsol has in both MotoGP and the RBAR.

Ted Reynolds (Juan Velarde’s mechanic for the Red Bull Air Race)