TECH TALK: What exactly is a G-inspection?

Take a look behind the scenes of the Red Bull Air Race with Technical Director Jim ‘Jimbo’ Reed and see what happens when an aircraft over-G’s in the track. When it happens – and it is (fingers crossed) very rare for Matt Hall Racing, it usually means some fast paced action back in the hangar before the next flying session.

So while the audience sees the drama below – check out the video…

…the team are preparing to pull panels off the plane and make sure everything is safe for the next flight. Read more below, thanks to the Red Bull Air Race media team.

When a pilot in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship exceeds 12G, the rules say that he has to stop his run. But the work for the team technician is only beginning! Get the insider lowdown on G-inspections, straight from the bearded genius himself, Technical Director Jim Reed.

In the Red Bull Air Race, the Master Class pilots enter the track at 200kts (370kmh, 230mph), and by the time they reach the first Vertical Turning Maneuver (VTM) they could be going even faster. They pull back hard on the stick and try to turn their raceplane around as quickly as they can, without breaking the rules of the sport and exceeding the 12G limit.

Every millisecond is vital and can be the difference between winning and losing, so the pilots will push as hard as possible, and sometimes that puts them in a penalty situation. When testing the boundaries of a racetrack, pilots can incur a two-second penalty for an “Over G” (if they pull over 10G for more than 0.6 seconds) or a DNF (Did Not Finish) if they exceed 12G – the margins are incredibly tight!

When a pilot exceeds the 12G limit, he is given the order by the Race Tower to “RTB” (Return To Base), as his raceplane will need to undergo a G-inspection.

The Technical Director of the Red Bull Air Race, Jim “Jimbo” Reed, used to be the technician for French Master Class pilot Nicolas Ivanoff and knows what it feels like to suddenly have a G-inspection added to his agenda; but now he is on the other side, and part of his role is ensuring that the technicians are doing the job correctly.

“The G-inspection is the responsibility of the team technician,” Reed explains. “They will strip the airplane apart, carry out all the checks, sign each section of the check sheet to say everything is good, and then I, or a delegate, will go and look at the raceplane and determine if we find that it’s good as well. So it’s their inspection, and then the final check is done by me or a delegate. If they do find anything, we of course will look over it together.” 

Reed mentions “delegates” – qualified members of his onsite team – because at the recent race in Abu Dhabi, the track was so fast that a lot of pilots were pulling more than 12Gs, and therefore a lot of raceplanes needed inspecting in a short amount of time.

Although the technicians have got the G-inspection down to a fine art, it is still a process they would rather they did not have to go through. It begins with stripping back the raceplane as far as the manufacturer has recommended.

There are specific checks for each variation of raceplane: the Edge 540 V2 differs slightly from the V3, and the MXS-R is a different process altogether.

“For the Edge, the checks include [but are not limited to], the cowling, the forward fuselage panel just ahead of the cockpit, the small tail cover, the last foot or two of the turtle deck for the V3s and the entire turtle deck for the V2s, as it comes off as one piece,” Reed describes. “Once that’s all off, you can see the engine mount, the wing attach points for the main spar and the aft spar, the seat and seatbelt attachments, all of the truss tubing and the vertical and horizontal tail attachment,” he adds.

The technician is looking to see if anything has moved or become compromised. Reed points out, “We also look at the surfaces of all the composite parts, trying to see if the skin is buckled or deformed. You look at it with a flashlight shining on the surface to see if there are any deformities. We look at it a million times so we can spot anything irregular.” 

He goes on to explain that it is a lot like looking down the side of a used car you are about to buy: you want to see if there are any dents or deformities that might belie its clean history.

MHR NOTE: We’re super lucky that the technical staff at Red Bull Air Race are always there to lend a hand when things become hectic during a G Inspection! PIC: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

The MXS-R requires a different format to the Edge due to its monocoque structure. “It doesn’t have the steel-tubular fuselage, so we check the engine mount, the engine mount gears, the engine mount attachment to the raceplane, the surfaces of the fuselage and the wings and tail. There are also two panels underneath the wing at the root, where you can pop those off and see the spar and tension caps and all the fittings and how they’re fitted to the fuselage,” says Reed.

Of course the pilots do not want to miss a moment of flying, so the technicians know exactly what to check and have got their G-inspections down to a fine art. “The techs can do it pretty quickly,” Reed states. “In terms of time, the MXS-R is the fastest because it has the least to take apart, and that’ll be about 30 minutes. The V2s are a bit more complex than the V3s, in terms of the way the panels don’t come off individually, so it takes a bit longer. But it’s about 45 minutes in total.” 
So far all these inspections have found very little and are testament to how robust the raceplanes of the Red Bull Air Race really are. “We haven’t found much in the past. Knock on wood, they’re super strong,” concludes Reed.

Watch 14 of the world’s best pilots push the boundaries again as the Red Bull Air Race World Championship makes its long-awaited debut in France on 21-22 April. For more information on Cannes tickets and all the latest, visit


Red Bull Air Race 2018 Calendar
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
21-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Europe, location TBA
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
4-5 August: Asia, location TBA
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
November: Asia, location TBA