Hannes Arch’s fans are used to many different things from this Austrian extreme-sports figure, but this slalom flight a few days ahead of the next event in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship 2016 was out of the ordinary.
Just a few kilometres from Spielberg in Austria, where Arch will compete on 23-24 April, he fulfilled a long-held ambition at one of the world’s highest wind farms, 1,900 meters above sea level, slaloming through the fourteen wind turbines of the Tauern Wind Farm in Oberzeiring (Styria, Austria). Always on the hunt for new challenges and innovative ways to use his skills, the passionate race pilot set a new milestone in his career.
Gazing on the Tauern Wind Farm in his Styrian homeland, the native of Trofaiach had often played with the idea of attempting a slalom flight in Oberzeiring:
“If, as a Red Bull Air Race pilot, you have such a wind farm on your front door and fly past it, it’s no wonder that you also want to fly through it at some point!”
Wind turbines don’t bend, they are rigid, and that is precisely why the idea of flying in between such massive “gates” had such an irresistible appeal for the Austrian pilot. In contrast, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship gates are 25 metres-high inflatable pylons that tear immediately upon contact with the plane. However, when it comes to flying through such gates, Arch assures us:
“Respect is of ultimate importance, and without my experience as a Red Bull Air Race pilot I would never have given the idea of flying between them a second thought.”
With official permission both from the local authorities and the wind farm’s management granted, and after intensive preparations, Hannes Arch finally powered his way between the 60 metres-high wind turbines in the Niedere Tauern mountains.
After completing his flight at speeds of over 300 km/h and stresses approximating 6 G, the Styrian was emphatic:
“I don’t know if a pilot has ever done anything comparable. Regardless, I am super happy that I was privileged to have such an experience”, and the Austrian continues: “One of the greatest challenges in comparison to the Red Bull Air Race is having to adapt far more to the natural conditions. In the middle of the mountains, you are rising and falling. You can’t fly as close to the obstacles, which increases the radius, and, at around 300 km/h, things can get a bit tight. Every second, you have to be perfectly clear in your mind that you have wind turbines in front of you and need to know precisely what you are going to do next. Though it has nothing to do with the Red Bull Air Race, it’s every bit as much fun, with the added benefit that it’s not about the time you clock. Things will get really serious again at the next race in Spielberg!”