French aerobatic champion Mélanie Astles is set to make history as she becomes the first female pilot to join the Red Bull Air Race's Challenger Cup. Astles is one of three new pilots to join the Challenger Cup lineup for 2016, alongside Britain's Ben Murphy and American pilot Kevin Coleman.
Mélanie Astles, a five time French aerobatic champion who has earned top ten rankings at World and European levels, enters the history books as the first woman ever to compete in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, and will compete alongside fellow 2016 debutants Ben Murphy and Kevin Coleman.
The UK's Ben Murphy is a former Commanding Officer and team leader of the RAF's world-class Red Arrows display team, and is set to bring even more military precision to the Challenger Cup, following in the footsteps of Chilean Air Force pilot Cristian Bolton.
Kevin Coleman, a flying prodigy from the US Advanced Aerobatic Team, will be taking up the baton as the first American to join the ranks of the Challenger Cup, and will be the youngest pilot competing this season. 2016 also sees the return of Luke Czepiela, an accomplished Polish aerobatic pilot who previously notched up a season's worth of racing experience when he competed in the 2014 Challenger Cup.
Mélanie Astles said, "I will mostly enjoy the tremendous opportunity of sharing my passion with the crowds. I can't hide the fact that for me it's a real dream to join the 2016 Challenger Cup, I'm really looking forward to that great challenge."
Ben Murphy also spoke of his delight about joining the Red Bull Air Race, "I've been lucky enough to have done some amazing flying in my career so far, but the Red Bull Air Race remains the ultimate challenge for me. The precision, skill and teamwork needed to succeed in the Master Class is second to none, and the Challenger Cup competition will give me the chance to build the experience required to compete at that level."
Kevin Coleman will be the youngest competitor in the 2016 Challenger Cup
The new pilots will be making their debut at the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi on 11/12 March, and will be working towards obtaining the "Unrestricted Superlicence" required to fly in the Master Class.