Over the last month or so we've heard a lot about winglets and wingtips. Each pilot has their own preference and we've seen a lot of variations in design. Ultimately, it's how the pilot flies – or feels he flies – which is the deciding factor in his choice of wing tip.
Current World Champion leader Paul Bonhomme has opted for the smaller wingtips that have almost no vertical lift on their profile. Interesting, these are the opposite function of the winglets chosen by Matt Hall and Nigel Lamb, but if the most successful pilot in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship has them, then there must be a reason. "I have those particular wingtips on my aircraft because I feel they work," said Bonhomme. "The funny thing is that there are 14 teams with 14 aerodynamicists and very few pilots have the same wingtips. Aerodynamics is a form of maths, it's a science, so you would expect all 14 guys to come up with the same solution.
"It all depends on what the pilot wants, so they will decide if they want to fly fast or turn quicker. What works better in Chiba would not work in Ascot. If we had more budget and more time we would have different wingtips for each location," he went on to explain.
Paul Bonhomme's current wingtips
Hannes Arch is the latest pilot to change up his aircraft's wingtips for winglets. Due to the way they've been fitted, they're easily interchangeable. Before Ascot, Arch hadn't had much chance to test the new modifications to see if he liked the feel. "If I don't like them, I can take them off and change them back. It's really up to me," he said at the British stop last month. Since Ascot, Arch has had some time in the Edge for extra performance testing. "We did lots of testing after Ascot," explained Nigel Dickinson, Hannes Arch's technician. "We flew with them on collected data, took them off and collected more. We spent a lot of time with them," he added.
Hannes Arch's new addition...
Kirby Chambliss has been working on winglets for several races, but has had little time to work with them. In fact, Team Chambliss had the carbon fibre moulds ready in Ascot, but couldn't fit them. And ahead of the Austrian stop earlier this month, again there were issues with fitting them to the aircraft. "We were going to use the winglets here in Spielberg," explained Jason Resop, Team Chambliss' technician of 12 years. "But when it came to fitting, they didn't line up exactly so it took longer to adjust. I've sorted them and they're now mounted but Kirby won't race with them until Fort Worth. We needed at least five flying hours for Kirby to get used to them, it's not smart to try them in race weekend," he added.
Expect Kirby Chambliss' wingtips to be vastly different in Fort Worth
Collectively, the Red Bull Air Race pilots are split over the best option when it comes what to fit to the ends of their raceplane wings. And Canada's Pete McLeod has changed his wingtips several times this season – sticking with wingtips over winglets – but is happy to take the time to find the best option. "If there was a guaranteed accessory to make the raceplane faster I'd put it on, but I'm also not the sort of person that just changes something because it's the latest fad," McLeod said.
Pete McLeod is open to change on his wingtips...
Whatever the opinions of the individual pilots, this type of wing modification looks like it's here to stay, "Will we have them?" Michael Goulian thought out loud. "I'm sure we will. Will everyone else have them? I'm sure they will. It's really a game of who's making the best winglet at this point!" he concluded.
Winglets: the pilots speak