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October 20, 2008 Permalink

Air Racing

The Red Bull Air Race, started in 2003, is a series of air races, held all over the world, where pilots fly specialized aerobatic planes (with top speeds of over 250 mph / 400 kph) through a series of gates, racing the clock, accumulating points toward the championship title. Pilots must also perform specific manoeuvres while passing through the gates. The photos below are from the most recent two races, in Budapest, Hungary, and Porto, Portugal. The final race in the series is scheduled for November 1st, in Perth, Australia, and video of the event will also be streamed over the web. (17 photos total)

Spanish pilot Alejandro Maclean in his MXS aircraft performs during a qualification session for the sixth round of the Air Race World Championships on August 19, 2008 over the Danube River of downtown Budapest, Hungary. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
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74 comments so far...


Posted by Anonymous October 20, 08 12:13 PM

Great stuff as always

Posted by Jonathan October 20, 08 12:23 PM

A lot of pictures of my beautiful contry!. Portugal!!.
Great selections.

Best regards,
António Chagas -

Posted by António Chagas October 20, 08 12:28 PM

insane times two

Posted by Anonymous October 20, 08 12:29 PM

I like no 14 the best... Go South Africa!!!!

Posted by SA gal October 20, 08 12:33 PM

Awesome! Great shots.

Posted by miguel October 20, 08 12:40 PM

magnifique !

Wish I could know the material used

Posted by Anthony October 20, 08 12:59 PM

J'ai pu voir une etape de "The Red Bull Air Race" a Istanbul l'annee derniere et c'est vraiment impressionnant...
J'adore !!!!!

Posted by Fabien October 20, 08 01:01 PM

The Hungarian Parliament Building was a good background for these pictures. Hungary for the horde*! ;D

* win.

Posted by zip October 20, 08 01:42 PM

I'd like to know what settings this camera was at, as well as what equipment was used. Look at number 7 and the prop was captured without any significant revolution while the people in the background are still pretty focused. Great depth of field while still having a very high shutter speed. Must have quite the glass for that.

Posted by Steve October 20, 08 01:44 PM

I feel so good to see great pictures from Hungary taken by Hungarian photographers. In picture 10,12,13,17 you can see the building of Hungarian Parliament.

Posted by poTomek October 20, 08 02:21 PM

They did a show on the Detroit River between Detroit Michigan and Windsor Ontario earlier this year. The speeds that they were weaving in and out of those pylons was unbelievable. Check out the pics.

Posted by Trevor D October 20, 08 02:57 PM

And Quebec City never got that great event... such a wonderful scenery for the Red Bull Air Race!
OK everyone, let's all write to the mayor at once! Woohoooo! :P

Posted by Magzime October 20, 08 03:22 PM

this might be my favorite addition yet.

Posted by evan weatherford October 20, 08 03:32 PM

I am so glad I had the arms of my computer chair to hold on to!
I had my mouse on automatic pilot.
Amazing scenery for this armchair traveler via The Big Picture.
Thanks. ~ Rosemary

Posted by Content in a Cottage October 20, 08 03:42 PM

Steve (#10) - It is actually very easy to freeze a spinning propeller.

Usually a shutter speed of around 1,000th of a second should be enough. Using the sunny-16 rule at ISO 100 you get 1/1,000th at f/5.6. So even on an average overcast day you could get that using an f/2.8 lens without having to change ISO.

Incidentally, as an a helicopter rotor is slower they will be frozen from around 1/500th.

Normally you want some blur to show motion - frozen propellers and rotors usually look as if the craft has stalled in midair - so that can be more difficult as you need to be steadier to keep everything in focus at slower shutter speeds.


Posted by Michael October 20, 08 03:55 PM

Just to add something I forgot to say in my last comment, depth of field is not a problem with using such wide apertures as the distance between the subject and camera will be so great.

Posted by Michael October 20, 08 03:57 PM

They going to do it with ROCKETS next !

Posted by AC October 20, 08 04:04 PM

#10 is just wonderful! Great shots, thank you for that!


Posted by Antoine October 20, 08 04:23 PM

Cheers from Budapest :) such great picks and great pics... nice to see my town in this blog...

Any idea, from where shot #4 was made? From a 'copter or a small plane?

Posted by mrgarris0n October 20, 08 05:56 PM

Just brilliant!

Posted by Jon Moss October 20, 08 06:26 PM

wow great pics.

Posted by ed October 20, 08 06:27 PM

That is absolutely amazing! Wow, beautiful photographs!


Posted by Jiff Woods October 20, 08 06:33 PM

definitely a great thing to be doing at this point in human history. burning gas and polluting. oh sorry, did i just do that thing where you ruin the "we're wrecking the whole planet and having fun doing it" party? oh im such a bore.

Posted by mark October 20, 08 06:42 PM

Nice to see my country on The Big Picture.

I had you bookmarked for months, but i'd never expected to see Budapest here.

Here's a Budapest Air Race picture where they're flying below the Chain Bridge:

Posted by Photophoto October 20, 08 07:17 PM

#24 - you're a stupid hippie, i'm sorry, someone had to let you know

Posted by lulzy October 20, 08 07:22 PM

100% bad ass

Posted by Major October 20, 08 08:07 PM

No, you're not boring, just thoughtless.
Can you name any human recreational/sports/spectator activity that does not do these things? Can you suggest any activity where people would willingly expend resources (physical, technological, financial) to be involved in that fits into your narrow, self-righteous view of the world?
You, and millions of other people are able to view pictures such as these, and comment on them, and (if you want to) add to them, using a huge and complex infrastructure which utilizes technology, energy, and human intellect. This system, for better or worse, exists because people wanted it to. And unless you are willing to shut off your computer, take yourself (including your family, your home, your job, your life, etc.) off the grid, and find next-to-zero impact means of staying alive (and amusing yourself), you really have no right to be making asinine judgements about how others find happiness (or earn a living).

Posted by IMSA12 October 20, 08 08:16 PM


Posted by DREW October 20, 08 08:58 PM

>November 1st, in Perth, Australia
Home again.
Thank You!

Posted by Chris Greaves October 20, 08 09:02 PM

I'm especially amazed about something not that obvious: How the heck do they get permits to do what they do? So close to spectators and buildings, flying so low - they even fly *under* bridges! Every airshow has to keep very specific - rather high - minimal distances to spectators and to the ground.

Every single one of them seems to be broken during those air race events. Not that I would really mind, it makes for some spectacular views - but I really do wonder how they get away with it.

Posted by Bernd October 20, 08 10:59 PM

They should do this on the Charles.

Posted by Dan Dunn October 20, 08 11:13 PM

haha i second you dan, i think this weekend they just did that whole Rowing competition, i passed by it briefly.

anyone else feel guilty about plugging their blogs on this site?

Posted by freshouttatime October 20, 08 11:44 PM

the Perth race will be broadcast live & online on and Here's the promo video: -- Can't wait!!!

Posted by maverick October 21, 08 03:25 AM

Great pictures!
Budapest is a marvellous capital


Posted by Alex October 21, 08 03:46 AM

@ ISMA12, I completely agree with you. Mark, do you realise how much air pollution is caused by the internet, these days? No not just your pc, but all the servers that the net consists of. Just look it up somewhere. You'll be surprised.

Posted by Dutchman October 21, 08 04:15 AM

I think what your saying at least has the right spirit, but be realistic about. I've been a pilot for a few years now and I can say pretty confidently that stunt planes like these have 6 cylinder engines and would probably be expected to burn less than 10 gallons for a short race (including taxi, run-up, take-off, race, landing) like this. I really don't think that is where you should be focusing your indignation.

Posted by wynnstate October 21, 08 06:32 AM

Focussing on the airplane, #12 gives an amazingly realistic 3D effect.
Other pics are just better!

Posted by Anonymous October 21, 08 07:34 AM

Acompanho o Boston Big Picture, sou brasileiro e sempre estou neste website.

As fotos são perfeitas, parabéns.

Posted by Marlon Carfi October 21, 08 10:27 AM

I'm a docent at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California. Just before the first running of this race over San Diego Bay, a pilot flew off the flight deck of Midway in a publicity event for the races.

In far less than 500 feet (150 meters), his airplane went from a standstill to a nearly vertical climb, without yet having passed over the bow of the ship. What amazing airplanes and pilots!

Posted by Dave Barak October 21, 08 12:13 PM
Posted by David Barak October 21, 08 12:24 PM

Cool picture from the Midway, David. I live in San Diego, and while I didn't watch the races this year, last year we checked them out a bit, and we'd see the planes take off for practice from Brown Field from my work.

Out of curiosity, although it seems the pilot had no troubles with the take off on such a short strip, was there any difficulty in his landing on the ship, or do those planes also have the ability to stop fairly quickly?


Posted by Anonymous October 21, 08 01:02 PM

He didn't land on the ship, I believe he went back to either Brown Field or Montgomery Field. My guess, though, is that he might have the ability to land fairly short too, but probably not as short as the takeoff run. The engines are very powerful, and if they were to bring the plane in nose-high, maybe they could bring it in slow enough, with the majority of the lift coming from the prop itself and not so much from the wings.

Just a guess though.

Posted by Dave Barak October 21, 08 02:04 PM

Hungary and Budapest looks wonderful and this weekend we will have a nice trip there! Thank you for the great advise!

Posted by Bill from There October 21, 08 06:02 PM

hao li hai de fei ji cong fen shuo ming ren lie shi wan wu zhi ling !

Posted by weiweige October 21, 08 10:11 PM

Great pics!! Hey guys, the next and last race of the season will be in Perth, 2 Nov. And the greatest thing is: it will be broadcast LIVE online! check

Posted by Skydivingpipo October 22, 08 03:03 AM


Posted by sanu October 22, 08 07:16 AM


Posted by nldlight October 22, 08 08:32 AM

Mark #24
While you're at it make sure to also cancel all football, basketball, hockey, baseball and soccer games too. That will save a lot of energy by not powering stadiums and concession stands. Also, vast amounts of fuel will be saved by people not driving, or taking public transportation to get to these events. Also, millions of animals will be saved each year by not being turned into hot dogs. Of course I'm not sure what we will do about all the people that will be out of work but I'm sure someone will think of something.

Posted by Stop it silly boy October 22, 08 09:46 AM

I think its funny that the american's plane (15 and 16) is by far the ugliest... hahaha

Amazing pictures though, very cool

Posted by Nicholas October 22, 08 10:41 AM

Not just the most recent ones but all your photos are amazing. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us.

Posted by Joanne Wheeler October 22, 08 11:09 AM

Incredible photography! How did you get those close-ups, overheads & weird angles?

Posted by Arizonan October 22, 08 11:38 AM

Incredible, it(he,she) needs it of many agility, dangerously but excitingly as like to be able to see it live


Posted by October 22, 08 12:43 PM

photo # 11 is my pick for the best camera work.

Posted by Vince Colling October 22, 08 09:22 PM

I want a job as an air racing pilot..... please please please

Posted by Adil October 23, 08 01:35 AM

Awesome article! Why did you not post pictures of the home town boy! Michael Goulian grew up in Arlington, Mass ( Now living in Maynard. There are tons of pictures on his website of him in the races and in airshows around the USA (and one in Rhode Island). They're in Perth this coming week - keep your finger's crossed for Michael!

Posted by Karin Goulian October 23, 08 10:20 AM

This is FLYING with the largest capital letters. It looks dangerous but no pilot is suicidal and no pilot can do this without an intensive training and a one hundred percent physical condition. This is not dangerous when performed by skillful and well trained pilots. They are not maniacs but the acrobats of the skies.

Posted by Cees van Leeuwen October 23, 08 11:46 AM

Hi 'Adil' at post # 55. What's stopping you training to be an aerobatic pilot if you really want to? It's a free society! That 's if you can take the 'G' forces of +7 to -5? However, I personally have no wish to experience the massive forces beyond the +3 'G' and -1 'G' that I occasionally do looping and some relatively mild aerobatics in my glider! If you want cheap flying why not try a glider 'trial lesson' ? I frequenly fly at the aircraft VNE (Velocity Never Exceed) of 160 knots (ie. 184 mph) and have done many aerobatic flights, including once doing five consecutive 'loops' loops without stopping a +3 'G'!

Talking of which, I agree with everything you say 'IMSA12' in post # 28! If mark gets his wish we will all end up sitting indoors reading and never going out and experiencing 'living'! Surely a responsible balance must be the aiming point. For example, how many small capacity but useful family cars could be run for a year on the same environmental cost as a Boing 747 doing a return trip to Disneyworld in Florida? I don't know the exact figure, but it's "a lot"!

How do you think 'mark' (post # 24) would judge my flying 'environmental' costs? I have launched in a glider to 1.000 feet by wire, using an LPG powered 'Chevy' 8.2 litre V8 powered winch, (but only using £0.10 of LPG fuel during the 30 seconds 'full power' run), and then going on to fly around several counties for over six hours with a 'footprint' of 'zero'!

Fly 'environmental' without an engine! You know it makes sense!



Posted by vegapilot October 24, 08 04:10 AM

It's fantastic that foresight has brought air racing to the masses via progressive thinking, powerful media and compelling work by photographers who are as passionate about their work as the pilots are about their precision - to all involved a job WELL DONE!!!
Anthony Allen - pilot & photographer - Cape Town

Posted by Anthony Allen October 24, 08 05:42 AM

Wonderful picture about my sweet town, Budapest and my flying soul in the aircraft. Thank you for this treasure.

Posted by Mary Hollós October 24, 08 03:29 PM

Please notice the rafts the pylons are placed upon. They are portions of floating bridges and erection boats called Ribbon Bridging developed by the US Army at Fort Belvoir, VA, and tested on the Potomac River before fielding to NATO.

Posted by E Rudy October 24, 08 06:11 PM


Posted by NICK jOSEPH October 25, 08 09:52 AM

tök jók a képek, peset még nem láttam ilyen szemszögből, pedig itt lakok

Posted by gaga October 25, 08 11:01 AM

@ Bernd

I believe it is a requirement for entry as a pilot to have won the world aerobatic championship at least once, and have passed an intensive training program for the series. These guys are at the very top of their game, and know both their own and their machines limitations inside out, to the point that it's exceedingly rare for them to even strike the inflatable pylons in the heat of the race. I daresay there are still large insurance figures involved, but the fact the series has run for 7 years without any major incidents (a track record that not many motor sports can boast) shows how serious they are about safety.

Posted by Tim October 27, 08 11:47 PM


Posted by TERRI ANN October 28, 08 08:44 AM

I'cant find the words...................SUPERB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
F..........G great pictures.!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by bastiaan October 29, 08 08:01 AM

Mike Mangold in Portugal appears to have done a hell of a job. Would love to have been there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Bob Christian October 29, 08 01:08 PM

Porto é lindo...

Posted by Pedro October 29, 08 05:50 PM

...TAKL ABOUT ...FUN !!!!... WOW!

Posted by "Fighter Jim" October 30, 08 10:32 PM

There is no building in the world that exceeds the beauty of the Hungarian Parliament, in Budapest Hungary. Thanks for the Flicks and Pics.
John Molchan [Fathers' family from Hungary]

Posted by John Molchan November 8, 08 09:16 PM

If you think about it, he took off from the deck of the Midway, so he had to have landed on it before that. Not difficult really as they could probably land in about 150 to 200 yds. Round-out a few mph above the stall and land it on the numbers.

Posted by Paul November 13, 08 01:38 PM

If you think about it, he took off from the deck of the Midway, so he had to have landed on it before that. Not difficult really as they could probably land in about 150 to 200 yds. Round-out a few mph above the stall and land it on the numbers.

Posted by Paul November 13, 08 06:24 PM

I think your portrail of the air races is one of the finest things I have seen on my computer Question where do the pilots get their money from??

Posted by Johnny Clark January 29, 09 08:07 PM

awesome pictures... the locationes are amazing, great countries... i dream with they made a stage in Valdivia, Chile, above the CALLE CALLE river... it would be perfect... my chance to take a look at them in real life. greetings

Posted by Mozaiko April 23, 09 11:02 PM
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