Our customers include pilots flying a diverse range of aircraft from many differing backgrounds. Similarly, the 14 elite pilots of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship come from all over the world, and their backgrounds are as varied as their nationalities. But which kind of experience gives these highly skilled aviators the edge?
The Red Bull Air Race pilots hail from a wide range of backgrounds – flying supersonic jets in the military, winning world titles in aerobatics and starring in the planet’s most prestigious air shows, not to mention the demanding flying of display teams, demonstrating vintage aircraft and even navigating bush flights in the wilderness. The most successful of all time, British triple World Champion Paul Bonhomme (now retired from racing), not only has extensive air show experience but regularly pilots trans-Atlantic jumbo jets.
While all the race pilots see themselves as part of the international fraternity of aviators, that doesn’t stop them – or fans around the world – from debating the age-old question: What kind of background is most likely to determine success in the season-long battle for the title? Jim DiMatteo, the Race Director of the Red Bull Air Race, shares his thoughts.
A decorated former TOPGUN Commander himself, DiMatteo continues:
Military and display team backgrounds, among others, also give pilots experience in another area that’s key to making headway on the ultra-competitive Air Racing scene: working with, and leading, a team. DiMatteo finds that – in addition to having a fast raceplane – factors most important to success in the sport include consistency in performance, avoiding penalties and having a great team around the pilot.
In the 2018 season, two of the standouts were relative newcomers who, despite contrasting backgrounds, both turned heads with their rapid rise: Mika Brageot of France, who joined the World Championship in 2017, is a gold medalist in top aerobatics competition, and Great Britain’s Ben Murphy is a former Team Leader of the Royal Air Force demonstration team, “The Red Arrows.” DiMatteo credits their deep experience in those fields, and he also identifies another important aspect of their backgrounds. Both came into the World Championship from the second competition category of the sport, the Challenger Class.
While the Red Bull Air Race pilots each bring something different to the table, there’s one characteristic that DiMatteo feels they all have in common: competitiveness.
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