The first Challenger Class pilot from South Africa, Patrick Davidson impressed when he earned two pole positions and two race podiums in his debut season of 2018. Now, he is aiming for his first race wins.
"In 2018 I had a sixth, fifth, fourth, third and second (in no particular order), so I would hate for first to feel left out!" he says with a lighthearted smile but serious intent.
Born in 1982, Davidson has aviation in his blood, as his father and grandfather were renowned display pilots. Growing up at airfields with his dad as mentor and trainer, Patrick was eager to get behind the controls himself. He earned his private pilot licence at age 17, and by 25 he became South Africa's youngest aerobatic champion, securing a spot in his first FAI World Aerobatic Championship.
Since then, Davidson has taken additional national aerobatic titles – including the Unlimited championship in 2018 – and his numerous podiums at the World Championships include highlights such as third place overall in individual competition and silver medals with Team RSA. He has clinched wins and podiums at a variety of other prestigious international events as far afield as China, and he was twice named Aero Club South Africa's pilot of the year, further earning the organisation's award for most meritorious feat of 2018.
Beyond competition, Davidson has a passion for preserving historic aircraft and sharing them with the public in display flights. His personal collection includes biplanes and classic World War II fighters as well as high-performance aerobatic planes and even a jet. Altogether, the South African, who also possesses experience flying as a commercial pilot, has flown over 30 different aircraft.
As a newcomer to the Red Bull Air Race last season, Davidson claimed his first Qualifying win and race podium (second place), in only his third race: Kazan, Russia. He subsequently captured another pole and third place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – all promising results for a first-year competitor.
"It's an honour to fly the South African flag, and I have been shocked and gratified by the amount of support I have received from South Africa and South Africans living abroad," Davidson states. "The flying is very different to what I am used to,... but towards the end of the season I started to learn some of the things to look for. I still have a lot to learn."