Australia’s Matt Hall had a scare during the first Qualifying session at the Red Bull Air Race in Windsor when his plane touched the surface of the Detroit River, but the former RAAF pilot quickly recovered and returned safely to Race Airport.
It’s the motor racing equivalent to touching the wall
Hall was challenging for the lead in the first of the two Qualifying sessions when he suffered an aerodynamic wing stall. His left wing skimmed the surface of the river and then his right wheel cover hit the water, but Hall was quickly able to regain control of his MXS-R aircraft and climb up into the sky. "I felt I was having a fairly good run,” Hall said. “Even though I might have skipped twice on the water, it’s still the motor racing equivalent to touching the wall." Matt’s plane suffered damage that made it impossible for him to race on Sunday.
Matt Hall will aim for a podium finish at the next stop of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in New York on 19 - 20 June. The World Championship then shifts to Europe for the final three races in Germany, Hungary and Portugal.
Matt Hall interview on Sunday after Detroit River scare
How are you feeling today, a day later?
I’m feeling about the same as yesterday, just disappointed that it happened. I’m here to race. I actually felt like I was racing reasonably well yesterday. It was just, you know, a slight slip over the line, which then ends up in near-disastrous consequences. So I’m disappointed I crossed the line there. But we’ve got the plane already on its way to get fixed and we should be able to get it back in the air for New York.
It was some amazing flying, as we saw in the video and you mentioned in your blog you ‘felt like the water was grabbing you’ How did you get out of that?
Some people are saying it was an ‘incredible piece of flying’ but I’m looking at it the other way - I feel like it was a terrible piece of flying to get myself there. So it depends how you look at it. I’m very critical of myself all the time. I did what I had to do to recover from a situation that I put myself in. So I guess it evens out. A slight bit of damage but walked away from it.
No injury at all?
No injury at all. The impact in the water was fairly harsh in the cockpit but no more harsh than what we normally experience in the cockpit anyway. I looked at the G-meter after and it was still only indicating whatever I got to in the track. I wasn’t pulling any extra G. It was a bit of deceleration. It was basically fighting for survival at the time so I didn’t really feel it.
You talked about having some tight situations in your military career, was there anything like that before?
I’ve never hit the surface of the earth before unintentionally. But I have had very close calls before with near mid-airs, I’ve had near misses with the ground before and I’ve been shot at and had missiles nearly hit me. I’ve had experiences before where it was fairly close as to whether I’d survive or not. This is another event. But that’s what happens when you lead a life that’s right on the limits of aviation. You know there are a lot of risks and you balance the risk and your safety margins so that every now and then if you do go across the line with the safety margin you manage to keep everything else under control, so that the odds are stacked in your favour.
You said yesterday you thought it would probably all ‘hit you’ a few hours later. Have you been able to digest it all now?
In the end I don’t think it hit me as bad as I thought it would. Basically I made an error. I got away with it. And I think some confidence actually came from Adi’s experience. I know I wasn’t milli-seconds away off instant death I was actually milli-seconds away from writing the aircraft off and me ending up in the water but being rescued. That’s where the comfort actually comes from, knowing it’s a survivable situation to be in, just like motor racing. You hit the wall, tumble the car up, get pulled out, off to hospital for the night, car’s written off but you go back racing the next week.
What’s happening with the plane now?
It’s now on a truck on its way to North Carolina to the factory. I was actually intending on going to North Carolina next week anyway. So we’ll get the plane there, they reckon they can fix it in less than a week. I’ll go out to the factory once its fixed and do some test flying out there and get back in and get comfortable in it and then hopefully get it to New York in time to race.
So it shouldn’t be a problem to get to New York to race?
I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t be a problem but a this stage the indications are that it should be okay.
What exactly was damaged on the plane?
The wheel spat, the aileron and we have to inspect the fuselage landing gear mount because it took quite an impact. And also part of the rear right wing has got a little bit of damage. We just want to make sure it’s just cosmetic and not structural.
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