One of the most experienced pilots in the Challenger Class, Luke Czepiela is also an accomplished Polish aerobatics pilot who has enjoyed the view from his national podium and twice represented his country at the World Unlimited Aerobatic Championships. Now in the Challenger lineup for a fourth season after finishing 2017 on the overall podium, he's looking to push his skills – and results – even further.
"I've been steadily improving: fourth in 2016 and third in 2017. Now it's time to win!" Czepiela declares. "Last year I had penalties in Free Practice sessions with usually good results in competitions. This season, I want good practice flights with even higher steps on the podium."
Czepiela is living a boyhood dream that began when his father took him to an air show. Fascinated, he eventually became a "hangar rat" at the local airfield, working to earn glider lessons. By 15 he was pursuing an engineering degree with the goal of working on aircraft.
Czepiela served as an aircraft engineer, had a job in flight operations for a flying school and was crew chief for the UK's prestigious Honda Dream Team. He also took up aeroplane aerobatics. In only his second year of aerobatic competition (2010), he won the Advanced category at the L. Marchelewski Memorial and took third place at the Polish Advanced Aerobatic Nationals.
Today he flies as a commercial airline captain on the Airbus A320, as well as on the Polish Aerobatics Team and the Firebirds Aerobatic Team; and he performs in top air shows – including piloting his aeroplane in formation with a helicopter flown by his fiancée.
Czepiela first raced in the Challenger Class in 2014 and then took a season's hiatus. In 2016 he earned four podiums highlighted by his first race win, an impressive performance at the USA's Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Five more podiums followed in 2017, including victory at a rescheduled race in Kazan, Russia (originally slated for Japan). That strong consistency resulted in his career-high third-place finish overall.
"2017 was the most competitive I've seen in the Challenger Class. Everyone is improving, and if you don't work hard, you lose," Czepiela relates. "2018 looks even more interesting, and consistency will be the key!"