Meet the Challengers: Baptiste Vignes

The French pilot is set to make waves in the Challenger Class

Vignes mindflying

At just 31 years of age Baptiste Vignes has already made a name for himself in the world of competition flying, claiming the World, European and French National titles in aerobatics and is also a flying instructor.

He gained his Challenger Class Super Licence in the winter of 2016, which allowed him to become a competitor for the 2017 season. Out of the three new Challenger Class pilots to join this season, he was the only one to compete in Abu Dhabi against a field of competitors that had a lot more experience in the racetrack. However, Vignes handled the pressure well and flew superbly. Race Director Steve Jones was impressed: "Baptiste flew beautifully at his first race. He had to learn a lot about the Air Race, but he did extremely well."

Vignes passion for flying came about when he first sat in a cockpit as a 14-year-old. He received his pilot's license at just 17 and two years later he had secured his initial aerobatics qualification and launched into competition.

Vignes first clinched a European Advanced Team Championship in 2009 as part of the French contingent; won dual Advanced World Championships in 2010 by taking the team title and defeating 82 other pilots to claim the individual crown; and took home another gold medal from the European Advanced Team Championship in 2011. He is currently a member of the French national team that competes at the Unlimited level – the highest in the sport – and in addition, he was awarded yet another World Championship as coach of France's Advanced team in 2016. Vignes earned his Commercial Pilot's Licence and also became a flight instructor in 2009; altogether he has piloted more than 1,400 hours.

After his first race Vignes was confident of his ability and the challenge ahead. "I'm still learning, but I had fun. There are things I need to think about, but the important thing is that I stay calm and make sure I'm smooth and safe. It feels good to be a Challenger, and it was a good week. I am pleased with how I have performed, and want to continue on this path by learning and improving my flying," he said.

Vignes will have his next chance to compete in San Diego on 15-16 April. Tickets are still available, get them HERE.