Hong Kong's Kenny Chiang is the first pilot from China to compete in the Red Bull Air Race, and the Challenger Class contender wasted no time in putting his homeland at the top of the podium. In only his fourth race – the sport's historic premiere in Russia – Chiang claimed his maiden win with an impressive flight in wet conditions at Kazan. In 2018, the 28-year-old is working to expand the skills he's already gained in the high-speed, low-altitude sport, while he continues to pursue his passion of raising awareness about aviation in China and beyond.
"I definitely feel that awareness of the sport is starting to grow at home, especially with my win in Kazan," Chiang relates. "I think almost all the media outlets were covering the story, and they love it!"
Chiang has been captivated by flight since childhood. He took his first flying lesson at the age of 13 and was awarded his pilot's license at 17. That same year, he attended the Red Bull Air Race in London, UK – and a seed was planted. He began learning aerobatics, meanwhile joining an international airline at 19, becoming one of the youngest pilots in history to fly a 747 and 777.
By age 24, Chiang had already flown aerobatics in locations including the UK, the USA, Australia and South Africa. In 2014, he became the inaugural pilot to represent Hong Kong on the global stage of aerobatics, claiming a bronze medal in his World Championship debut – the first World aerobatics medal ever awarded to an Asian country. Altogether he has flown more than 40 types of aircraft.
In addition to racing in Russia, in 2017 Chiang competed in Japan, Hungary and Portugal, and he gave reporters a taste of the high-G action by piloting media flights in Abu Dhabi. He's especially looking forward to the Asian stops on the 2018 calendar, including the continent's first-ever season finale.
"Having an extra race in Asia will mean so much to the fans. Hopefully I can secure a spot for the finale," Chiang says modestly. "I think the new Edge raceplane we're flying this year will make the Challenger Class an even better stepping stone to the Master Class, and I'm aiming to be more consistent."