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My 3 years old was watching the movie Planes (Dusty Crop hopper one) and when he saw one airplane hit a pylon and puncture it he asked: How will they fix it?

I told him it was air filled and they will put a new one there but his question got me wondering as to how can they be replaced quickly before the next guy's run? Is it just like pop one off and put a new one there and quickly blow air with heavy output pumps?

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The 25m tall asymmetrical pylons used in Red bull air races are made of 9 different sections, which are connected with zippers for easy removal and installation. In this image, you can see the multiple sections that make up the pylon.

Redbull pylon

Interior of redbull air race pylons; image from redbull air race

Airgators Team Captain, Holger Leprich, who is responsible for replacing the pylons after a hit, explains the procedure in this video.

  • The pylons are held up using air pressure- electronically controlled equipment at the bottom of the pylon creates a positive air pressure so that the pylon stands upright.

  • For each competition, there are three five member pylon replacement teams (called Airgators) to ensure quick replacement- their current record being 67 sec.

  • The pylon is designed to tear off in case of a hit. Once the pylon is hit, the team moves to the damaged pylons location on clearance from the race director.

  • Once the team reaches there, a couple of guys control the electronic equipment (and deflate the pylon, if required) at the bottom of the pylon, while another two replace the damaged parts- they simply unzip the damaged part and zip in the new one, while the last one checks the pylon.

  • Once the replacement is completed, the team inflates the pylon. Mission accomplished.

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From wikipedia

the current structures are made up of six sections attached together by zippers and Velcro to allow quick replacement if damaged by a plane

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