Air Racing’s Brageot goes from pilot’s seat to judge’s chair

When 176 of the world’s best paper aeroplane pilots assembled in Salzburg, Austria for the Red Bull Paper Wings World Final, who better to judge the proceedings than Mika Brageot, the French pilot of #11RACING Team Eyetime in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship?

The Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals included three disciplines, Aerobatics, Longest Distance and Longest Airtime, and Brageot was there to judge Aerobatics along with BASE jumping’s Cédric Dumont and B-Boy star Wing. It was a perfect assignment for the pilot, because in addition to winning the Challenger Cup and setting new benchmarks in the Red Bull Air Race, he has earned podiums at top national and international aerobatic competitions, including three European Team Championships.

“In 2015 I judged a Red Bull Paper Wings qualifier and the national final in France, so I was really glad to take the next step and judge the Aerobatic competition in the World Finals,” he says. “Red Bull Paper Wings is a mix of aerobatic, freestyle performance and aerodynamics in a very fun environment. But just because it’s fun doesn’t mean that the pilots are not focused. I checked the aeroplanes, and there are some very intriguing things. They are quite different, depending on if they are for the Airtime category or Distance or Aerobatics.”

The Aerobatic discipline sees themed performances, with pilots donning costumes to launch multiple types of aircraft in a 60-second display set to music, often with props. “The Aerobatic planes look fantastic, but also, I looked forward to this from an artistic point of view, because it’s not just about the flight, but about the overall performance and the fun they put into their showmanship,” Brageot explains. Watching themes ranging from airline captains to science fiction, ninjas and football, Brageot was clearly enjoying himself, and he was especially appreciative of the way some pilots could loop their paper planes precisely through hoops or around obstacles.

He was impressed by the Longest Distance and Longest Airtime categories as well. “For Distance and Airtime, you can see that they know what they are doing. They have to create the plane with a certain size and weight of paper, and it’s interesting to see how efficient a paper plane can be and how they keep refining their design as they go along.”

“But,” he adds with a smile, “we are not at the stage where we will use these techniques on my raceplane. If I show up at an Air Race with paper winglets, I’m sure I will be disqualified. I don’t think I’ll take that risk!”

So while he may not have gained any racing tips, Brageot did enjoy the experience. “There’s something quite nice about being part of this event, because people came together from 58 countries, and flying paper airplanes is something anyone can do, any time, at any age,” he muses. “I flew paper planes as a child, and I’m still doing it.“

See Mika Brageot back in the pilot’s seat when the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns to Kazan, Russia on 15-16 June 2019. For ticket information and all the latest news, visit www.redbullairrace.com.

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