Pilots Share Their Plans For The Future
While the Red Bull Air Race will not continue beyond 2019, the World Championship pilots are not leaving the sky. As the season finale concluded in Chiba, Japan, they opened up about what’s ahead.
As a first order of business, many are savouring a brief rest. Australia’s Matt Hall, who clinched his first title in September, said, “I’m taking a bit of a break, to tell you the truth. I’m pretty tired.” Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic, who won the 2018 World Championship, mirrored Hall’s sentiment, commenting, “I would like to enjoy my family now, because the season has been busy.” And Canada’s Pete McLeod was looking forward to float plane flying in the northern wilds before preparing for 2020.
Many, like the USA’s Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss, will continue with sponsor projects in addition to headlining airshows, and all 14 pilots are in demand for display flying, in part thanks to their exposure in the World Championship. With a more open schedule, Chile’s Cristian Bolton sees opportunity. “My idea is to increase activities related to airshows, demos and public appearances in Latin America, and some special flights so the Chilean fans can share the passion for flying,” he explained. “Most important, I’m working to develop a foundation to give new generations the chance to become a pilot and enjoy the amazing journey that is involved in an aviation career.”
Yoshihide Muroya of Japan also plans on performing in airshows as well as inspiring young people in different ways. “It’s educating them on how to achieve their goals. I learned a lot about that from racing,” said the 2017 World Champion.
Spain’s Juan Velarde is a captain for Iberia, and he demonstrates classic aircraft for the Infante de Orleans Foundation. “I will continue flying their vintage aeroplane collection, particularly the T-6, the Texan, and I will still compete in the Spanish Aerobatic Championship,” he reveals.
Like many avid pilots, the Red Bull Air Race stars are ever-eager to pursue fresh challenges. “We look to the future in all things aviation. It’s a lifestyle my family and I are very much invested in, and I am always open to new ideas and creating new ways to make aviation accessible to everybody,” declared French ace Mika Brageot.
Fellow French pilots François Le Vot and Nicolas Ivanoff – both known for their skill in coaching aerobatics – plan to remain flexible as well. “I call it ‘opening as many doors as possible.’ I’m actively preparing for my future, and we’ll see the results!” said Le Vot, who among other projects hopes to eventually set up an airsport school. Ivanoff contributed, “For sure I will stay in aviation. I know nothing else.”
A number of the pilots will be expanding their thriving aviation businesses, with Hall even launching a new enterprise in partnership with his Red Bull Air Race technician, David Finch. Matthias Dolderer, who won the 2016 title for Germany, has many irons in the fire, from keynote speeches to airshows. Further, he discloses, “I will probably do consulting in addition to working with our airfield and flight school at Tannheim, one of the few family-operated public airfields in Germany.”
As a key member of both the Blades Racing Team and the Blades Aerobatic Display Team, Ben Murphy has a lot in the pipeline. The Blades will tour the UAE this November, where, spearheaded by Murphy, they will offer flying experiences to corporate entities and individual flyers. Then, in 2020 Murphy and the team will travel to the USA for flight training on their new aerobatic aircraft, the GameBird GB1, before a busy summer season. Like several of the Red Bull Air Race pilots, Murphy also harbours ambitions to race again.
Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic, who will be doing airshows and likely flying commercially, summed up the feeling of all the pilots: “Wherever my steps lead me, for sure it will be in aviation. It’s too early to know exactly where it’s going to go, but I’ll keep my wings on!”