Whether the energy drink gives you wings or not, Red Bull, the brand that popularized this famous slogan, has wings aplenty.
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A short trolleybus ride away from downtown Salzburg, Austria, the contemporary building and bubble-like shapes of Hangar-7 feel a world apart from the picturesque Baroque streets of Mozart’s hometown and its well-preserved historical center.
But it’s here, right across the runway and opposite the main terminal at the Salzburg Airport (SZG) that the Flying Bulls, the aviation arm of Red Bull, have set up an air base.
Despite its name, Hangar-7 is not really a maintenance facility, but rather a museum exhibiting one of the most eclectic collections of aircraft anywhere in the world.
Quite remarkably for a fleet that includes some truly veteran vintage airframes, all aircraft in the Flying Bulls’ fleet are not only in flying condition but also are constantly on the move from one air show to the next.
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Jet combat aircraft, fighters and bombers from World War II, helicopters, light trainers, executive jets and even a DC-6 once used by the late Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz (Tito) as a VIP transport, are all part of the Flying Bulls air fleet — altogether, eight helicopters and 29 fixed-winged aircraft currently.
In addition to participating in air shows the world over, the aircraft are used in all sorts of stunts and other specialized tasks. Whenever they’re not being flown, many of them return to Hangar-7, where they can be admired by the general public, daily and free of charge, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There’s way more to experience than airplanes. Under the large, round glass canopy that covers Hangar-7’s main hall, aircraft share space with racing cars, works of art and several cafes and restaurants.
One of them is the upmarket Ikarus, which has the particularity that each month it hosts a new chef of renown from somewhere around the world to helm the kitchen. The towering presence of the Alps in the not-so-distant background adds to the uniqueness of the space.
While Hangar-7 offers visitors a glimpse of the Flying Bulls, Hangar-8 next door is where the Bulls’ fleet is maintained and overhauled.
Hangar-8 is a maintenance facility and it is not open to the general public. MIQUEL ROS/THE POINTS GUY
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Hangar-8 is a maintenance facility and it isn’t open to the general public. The Flying Bulls, however, were kind enough to let TPG have a peek around.
At the time of our visit, technical crews were working on an early 1940s P-38 Lightning fighter while no less than a dozen other aircraft, ranging from an AH-1 Cobra helicopter to the aforementioned DC-6, stood by, ready to be serviced.
The already complex technical work of servicing such a diverse fleet can only increase since the Flying Bulls’ fleet keeps growing.
“There is no grand plan behind our growth,” explained Siegfried Schwarz, a chief helicopter pilot with the Flying Bulls. “We are constantly on the look for opportunities to get interesting aircraft. We bring them here and make them fly again.”
Schwarz spoke with us as we toured the workshop where the Bulls’ latest restoration project is taking shape: a North American P-51 Mustang.
He also shared that a new acquisition is in the works. A historical helicopter model will soon join the retro rotorcraft fleet, which already includes two of the earliest helicopter types ever built, a Bell 47 and a Bristol 171 Sycamore. (For the latter, the Flying Bulls received official permission to use the original RAF symbols.)
The Flying Bulls helicopter team has participated, under Schwarz’s direction, in some rather spectacular stunts, including those in the 2015 James Bond movie “Spectre.” One of its German-made MBB BO-105 helicopters had a central role in the hair-rising opening scenes of that movie, set in Mexico City’s central square.
The core mission of the Flying Bulls is the preservation, restoration and maintenance of historic aircraft and helicopters. However, acrobatics flying is, in fact, one of their best-known facets.
The Flying Bulls’ aircraft, both fixed as well as rotary wing, are regulars of the international air show circuit and also have an excellent relationship with the air forces of several countries.
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A rarity for civilian organizations, the group also participates in Tiger Meets, an annual gathering of NATO fighters where participants show up in jets painted in colorful feline patterns. The Flying Bulls were no exception and applied a tiger-like design to their four-strong Alpha Jet squadron for the occasion.
They also engage in other more utilitarian missions, as well as other high-paced, challenging activities. The Bulls’ helicopters, for example, are often seen hovering above Formula One and Moto GP tracks providing aerial footage of the races.
This is, after all, a sport with which Red Bull has strong connections through its ownership of two F1 teams, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri. Air transportation for key staff with those two teams is provided by — you guessed it — the Flying Bulls.
Featured photo by Miquel Ros/The Points Guy.