Challenge accepted!

Are 305 HP enough to knock race driver Daniel Abt’s socks off? If they operate on him with centrifugal forces of 7 g, they clearly do - in the course of a high-speed-test in a plane’s cockpit


Author | Volker Paulun              

Photos | Matthias Mockenhaupt 

It’s a sunny day in northern Allgäu, more precisely at the sports airport in the contemplative Tannheim as the rolling thunder on twelve wheels gets closer: with the ABT SQ5 (425 HP), an ABT RS3 (500 HP) and an ABT RS5-R (530 HP) as the strongest car of the trio. On board: race driver Daniel Abt, the Brazilian actor Caio Castro as well as a film- and photo-crew.

Both of them want to get that very special adrenalin kick: a wild ride inside the 305 HP strong and less than a ton heavy aerobatic plane owned by Matthias Dolderer. That’s a real test of courage since the 47 years old Dolderer ranks among the best pilots worldwide – he’s a very hard-boiled king of the skies. He became the first ever German champion at Red Bull Air Race in 2016. And this year he also is one of the best elite airmen.

Bevor taking off, Dolderer “encourages” his passengers. With a scientific objectivity, he explains what happens when 7 or 8 g act on the body while they are up in the air (that’s at least 1 g more than hitting the breaks at full speed inside a Formula 1 car): “In contrast to Formula 1, the centrifugal forces during flying mostly work on the vertical axis which means you get pressed into the seat with a force of more than 600 kilograms. The blood that provides the brain with oxygen tries to pour out of the head during that. So first of all you’ll see stars and when you continue, there is a tunnel vision, blackout and finally loss of consciousness. This is something that surely has to be prevented.”

“We’re about to go down backwards”

Daniel Abt gets buckled up at the seat in front of Dolderer. His spot hat its own helm apparatus for the elevator and the rudder. “I really don’t know what to expect. It’s definitely going to be an extreme challenge”, Abt says. He’ll be right about it. Right after the start we could hear the first ahhhhs and ohhhs followed by an “oh f…”. Something like an extreme version of a rollercoaster ride. After a short instruction from the champion, Daniel Abt flies a first looping single-handedly. “Awesoooome!” Dolderer takes the lead again and throws the plane from one side to the other, also flies on the back. Short question to the person in front: “everything alright?” The difficultly pried answer: “everything alright, just lost a little of my facial tension”. 90 degree vertical flight, four rolls to the left within. Suddenly Dolderer takes out the gas. Short warning: “We’re about to go down backwards”. Daniel Abt tries being ironic: “sounds great”. The following dive is accompanied by a long and loud scream. After the dive, Dolderer does some staccato quarter rolls to the left but gives some time to breathe after. The carbon winged two seat plane glides through the air on its head. “Let’s relax a little”, Dolderer suggests. Abt counters “do you really think I’m not relaxed already?” That might have been a little too cheeky. Dolderer challenges gravitation again. The silver arrow thrusts up in the air vertically while twisting pirouettes. Abt’s face turns pale. “Everything alright?” asks Dolderer again. Even though Abt’s answer “sensationally” is lacking tension, the flight champion feels encouraged to screw his plane up in the air again. The centrifugal forces are tearing on Abt again. It suddenly gets very quiet inside the cockpit. The captain wants to know “are you really okay?” as the passenger honestly answers: “I slowly start to feel a little sick”. This is Dolderer’s sign to hit the ground again – he surely doesn’t want to clean up his plane from the inside…

Extreme experience or easy Sunday trip?

Abt gets off the cockpit a little dizzy but massively impressed. He concludes: “I totally lost control over my body up there. You can’t imagine what it feels like to fly with Matthias. That’s so surreal.” 7,3 g have acted on the race driver. That was a really extreme experience for the sportsman. For Dolderer it rather felt like a nice Sunday trip. The former youngest flight instructor in Germany is used to loads like that since decades. During the competitions of the Red Bull Air Race, there are up to 12 g acting on his body.

The second candidate waiting for a “taxi ride” in the agile plane named “Extra 300L” is Brazilian actor Caio Castro. Dolderer hits the gas, he’s completely in his element – Castro not so really. But his 16 million Instagram-followers can look forward for some spectacular pictures. Abt also got a lot of input for a new clip on his YouTube-channel.

The travel group slowly gets ready to head back to Kempten – says goodbye, gets into the cars, drives off. The rolling thunder leaves Tannheim. The sun is still shining and some of the faces inside the vehicles have a wide grin on them.