Ayrton Senna always had to go fast – whether on the track or above it. The three-time F1 champion’s love for airplanes was no secret: from small model planes to the Brazilian Air Force fighter jets.

On September 1986, Senna made the best of a short break between races by visiting an aviation fair in England, the Farnborough Air Show.  Still 26, the driver already received a champion’s welcome.

Ayrton visited the Embraer booth and saw several planes up close, such as the EMB 312 Tucano, the EMB 120 Brasília and an AMX fighter jet. The Lotus drivers also talked to Embraer employees and gave autographs.

Senna has several other stories involving airplanes. Take a look back at some curious links between the driver and aviation.

Tests with FAB fighter jets in 1987 and 1989

Soon after the 1989 Brazilian GP, Ayrton Senna had the chance to fly in a machine that was even faster than his McLaren: a fighter jet.

The driver was invited by the Brazilian Air Force to an exhibition flight in Anápolis (Goiânia), under the guidance of Lieutenant-Colonel Alberto de Paiva Cortes. Ayrton had already flown in a fighter in 1987, in Rio de Janeiro, when he was still at Lotus, but the second flight was covered by the press, including TV stations.

Homage in a FAB fighter jet

In honor of the 1989 flight and the 25th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s legacy, the Brazilian Air Force customized, in 2019, the Mirage 2000C flown by Senna. The new design was based on the iconic helmet of the greatest driver ever.

The layout was created by Raí Caldato and Alan Mosca, son of Sid Mosca, who was responsible for painting Senna’s helmets ever since his go-kart days. The jet was unveiled in March 2019 in Anápolis, and the event was attended by the driver’s brother, Leonardo Senna, who had the chance to fly in another fighter, in remembrance of Ayrton’s adventure.

Leonardo also represented the driver in other homage by FAB at the 43rd Bródio dos Jaguares, an award ceremony that took place in August 2019, also in Anápolis, which gathered pilots of the 1st Air Defense Group, known as Jaguars, besides other honorees and guests. At the event, Ayrton received the title of honorary Jaguar, which is bestowed to members of the military or civilians who have contributed to the success of the Air Unit.

Model airplanes

One of Ayrton’s main hobbies was building and flying model airplanes. He used to spend his days off, especially when he was in Brazil, having fun with his miniature planes.

Senna’s collection of model airplanes is stored exactly as the driver left it. Senna TV had exclusive access to it. Take a look:

Homage by Azul

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s legacy, in 2014, Azul Airlines paid tribute to the driver in a partnership with the Ayrton Senna Institute. The Brazilian company painted his iconic yellow helmet on the nose of an Embreaer E195 plane.

Visit to the Embraer factory

On December 16, 1992, already a three-time champion, Senna visited the Embraer factory in São José dos Campos, in the São Paulo countryside. The driver was very interested in the material airplanes are made of and in the technology that goes into the machines.

Helmet worn by Ayrton Senna with stylized design of two planes in an upward flight, to honor the Brazilian Air Force, in 1987

Senna gave out a lot of autographs and, in the end, was surprised by dozens of employees who wanted to see their idol up close. One of them was able to give him a gift: Giovani Morais offered Senna an “S” sculpted in fiberglass. The fan also took a picture with Ayrton, and the photograph ended up in several newspapers.

During the quick visit, Senna passed through the hangars where the AMB 110 Bandeirantes and the EMB 120 Brasília were built. He also checked out the electronic systems of the AMX fighter jet and the CBA 123 plane. Senna was accompanied by his brother, Leonardo, in the tour.