Bravo and Echo are F/A-18F Super Hornets, numbers 113 and 210 respectively, of VFA-103 "The Jolly Rogers." Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards were cast to voice them based on them both appearing in Top Gun (1986). In addition, Bravo and Echo's flight helmets are the same design/colors as 'Goose' and 'Ice Man', the characters Edwards and Kilmer played.
Disney casts the Turbine Toucan (aircraft designed and built by David Kervinen) to provide all the aircraft sounds for lead character "Dusty". The Turbine Toucan is the highest performance aerobatic aircraft in existence and like the lead character, is turboprop powered.
At the beginning of the movie, there are several mountains in the background. If you look closely, you can tell that they are shaped in the profile of large airplanes. There is also at least one scene where a cloud is shaped like an airplane.
Skipper is wearing a paint scheme similar to the one used by VF-17, the original "Jolly Roger" squadron in World War 2. VF-17 was originally attached to the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), which used the Walt Disney character Donald Duck in it's official ships' logo.
Ripslinger is custom-built carbon-fiber plane that resembles a North American P-51B Mustang, although with slightly swept-back wings and tail surfaces. An actual P-51B in the paint scheme of the "Tuskeegee Airmen" 332nd Fighter Group is also seen signaling the takeoff for the race at John F. Kennedy Airport.
Dusty appears to be based on an Air Tractor AT-402 powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-15AG at 680 horsepower. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the PT6A engine and the 3000th Air Tractor aircraft delivery.
El Chupacabra is a Gee Bee R1 racer. The Gee Bee was nicknamed "The Widowmaker" and "The Flying Coffin" since it was incredibly difficult to fly and was prone to crashing. It was also very fast and maneuverable so many pilots used in the 1930s air races in spite of the danger.
Rochelle is a Bay Super V which is a twin-engine conversion of a Beechcraft Bonanza. Only five were ever built. The only thing that differs from the Super V to Rochelle is that she only has one window on each side unlike the Super V.
The inspiration for the airport is based on Leaders Clear Lake Airport, in Clear Lake Minnesota. Bob Leaders, 80, started the airfield in 1969 and an old truck in his field also inspired the character "Chug."
The F/A-18 squadron featured in the movie is the "Jolly Wrenchers", based on VFA-103 "Jolly Rogers". During one scene in the movie the planes are chanting "Victory". "Victory" is the call sign used by VFA-103 pilots.
In the Brazilian version, the Canadian character Rochelle was replaced by a Brazilian plane called Carolina Santos Duavião. The name is a reference to Santos Dumont, the Brazilian aviation pioneer. The character was voiced by Brazilian singer Ivete Sangalo, and the paint scheme of the character and its name on the score boards were modified to reflect this change. In this version, Brazil has two planes participating, since there is another Brazilian plane in the race, that uses number 16.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
This film's plot and characters are like the movie Turbo (2013), released in the same year. The main character is orange, the main character has a best buddy with "Ch" as the first letters of his name, the main character makes more friends before a race, the main character has a mentor that is dark colored, competitor tries to kill main character and fails, and the main character wins the race.