Red Bull Air Race – Ten Things to Know about Pete McLeod

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Pete McLeod of Canada performs during the qualifying of the first stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 13, 2015. - Image Red Bull Content Pool
Pete McLeod of Canada performs during the qualifying of the first stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 13, 2015. - Image Red Bull Content Pool

Pete McLeod of Canada performs during the qualifying of the first stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 13, 2015. - Image Red Bull Content Pool
Pete McLeod of Canada performs during the qualifying of the first stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 13, 2015. – Image Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Air Race pilot Pete McLeod has been having a standout season in 2017. While it’s well known that he’s the only Canadian in the World Championship, and the youngest race winner in the history of the sport (age 30 when he triumphed at Las Vegas in 2014), there’s lots more to learn about the native of remote Red Lake, Ontario. Such as…

1) He literally grew up in the cockpit. Pete is a third-generation pilot and took his first flight in the family airplane at six weeks old. He clasped the controls from his dad’s knee at age three, and got his license to fly passengers before he earned a license to drive a car on his own.

2) He also grew up playing ice hockey, and he’s still a fan. Pete played hockey until age 18, and he says his competitive edge was sharpened on skates. The champion Pittsburgh Penguins have been his favorite team since the early 1990s. He’s even flown himself to see their playoff games.

3) It was a while before he made a three-point landing. In the Canadian wilderness, Pete first learned to take off and land in float (pontoon) planes. He says that bush flying is a lot like flying in a racetrack – a dynamic environment, low levels, bodies of water, making snap decisions – even finding a path through the trees is like picking a race line. Pete thrives on interacting with his environment, which may be why the tougher the course, the better he likes it.

4) He’s never gotten sick on a plane. Even when he was new to aerobatics, the Gs never got to Pete. (There’s a rumor, however, that his enthusiasm for doing snap rolls had quite the opposite effect on one of his instructors!)

5) If he hadn’t become a professional pilot, he might be an economist now. At least, he was trained as one. Pete earned a degree in economics from the University of Western Ontario.

6) He’s always been an overachiever. Pete started aerobatic training at 16 to make him a better, safer pilot. He was undefeated in his first full season of aerobatic competition, winning (among other honors) a United States Regional Series Championship and the 2004 North American Collegiate Aerobatic title.

7) He went out of his way to become the youngest pilot and first Canadian in the Red Bull Air Race Master Class. With pilots around the world eager to enter the elite ranks of the Red Bull Air Race, Pete made the investment in time and money to travel to Europe for special training camps and coaching, where his skills and work ethic made a strong impression. The rest is history.

8) He’s a cook and a craftsman. When he’s home, Pete loves to cook fish, game and fresh veggies as an antidote to all the restaurant-type food he eats on the road. He also likes to grow trees and to build his own furniture.

9) He does a great impersonation of a moose. As a teenager, Pete used to work as a wilderness guide, giving him plenty of opportunities to perfect his moose call.

10) Win or lose, the racetrack is his happy place. “Being in the cockpit of my raceplane is one of the happiest places for me,” Pete has often said. “I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that flying would take a kid from Red Lake, Ontario to all the places I’ve been, doing what I love as my profession.”


ABOUT RED BULL AIR RACE
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship celebrated its landmark 75th race at the 2017 season opener in Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision, and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.