The world of the Red Bull Air Race changed forever in 2007 when Hannes Arch joined the World Championship.
The young Austrian pilot made an instant impact on the series with his determination to win and his eagerness to advance his raceplane to make him as competitive as possible.
It didn't take long for Arch to make his mark on the series. In 2008, his second year, Arch took the Championship and only finished two races without a podium position. This cemented his place in the history books of the Red Bull Air Race.
When he returned for the 2009 season he knew all eyes would be on him, saying: "When I was defending the title in 2009, I had to learn to deal with that pressure. I always tried to handle it and to convert it into something positive."
In his six full seasons in the Red Bull Air Race, Arch collected 11 race wins, the second highest amount of any pilot, and apart from his debut season, always finished in the top three. He was a fighter in the series and always wanted to win. "Hannes was a fierce competitor who I grew to like and respect more and more as the years went by," said 2014 World Champion Nigel Lamb. "He had a wonderful spirit and an infectious love of life. If there is any solace ever to be found in the death of a companion, at least we know that Hannes was in his beloved Austrian mountains in a flying machine doing what he loved. We will miss him as a competitor but more importantly, we will miss him as our friend."
Despite competing around the globe, Austria was Arch's home and where he felt his spirit was strongest. "My home is my retreat. Looking at home as a location, definitely it is Austria – Salzburg and especially Styria, where I grew up. But the other thing is that I am never at home, so I am looking for my home place inside myself and that's why in my off time I'm doing sports like mountaineering, climbing, and spending lots of time in nature, because that's where I feel at home," said Arch in an interview.
Hannes Arch's Red Bull Air Race Career
The news of Arch's death sent shockwaves through the sporting community. His close friend and fellow competitor Pete McLeod had this to say: "Today I'm thinking of better days with the people and times in life that really matter and make us smile... Because that's what Hannes Arch would do. Take care Hannes and we promise to keep smiling, caring, and living life to the max. You will always be remembered."
Arch was revered in the hangars, and could always be found talking to his fellow competitors. He was also more than willing to offer advice to the Challenger Class pilots. "I grew up watching Hannes race and loved his style, he had the ability to take it to the line without crossing it to beat people. He also had an indescribable way to get in his opponents heads and rattle them," said Kevin Coleman, who is in his debut season in the Challenger Cup. "Hannes came up to me at every race to talk about anything, sometimes about the race and sometimes just joking around. It was awesome flying across Europe with Pete McLeod and Hannes a few weeks ago. At the time I thought about how cool it was to be doing that, and now it means that much more. At first Hannes was someone I would like to be as a competitor, but he ended being someone I would like to be as a person," added Coleman.
Arch will be missed by the entire Red Bull Air Race family. He always thought himself to be fortunate with how he was able to live his life. In a recent interview he was quoted as saying: "If I look back at my life, it's been so exciting and I've had so many opportunities. I'm really lucky because I am free, because I can do whatever I want."
Blue skies, Hannes.