Red Bull Air Race Adds New Pilots

Mélanie Astles is the first female Red Bull Air Race pilot. Red Bull Air Race

Red Bull Air Race spectators will see several new faces and airplanes battling it out around the inflatable pylons for the 2016 races. For the first time, a female pilot will join the exclusive air race club with French aerobatic pilot Mélanie Astles. Astles, who will fly an Extra 330XT, is a five-time French national aerobatic champion and has participated in world and European aerobatic championships. “I can’t hide the fact that for me it’s a real dream to join the 2016 Challenger Cup,” Astles said. “I’m really looking forward to that great challenge.”

Also joining the Challenger Cup are Ben Murphy from Great Britain and Kevin Coleman from the United States. Polish racer Luke Czepiela, who competed in 2014, will also return to the 2016 roster.

The Challenger Cup was introduced in 2014 to help pilot train for the rigors of the ultimate competition in the Masters Class. With the retirement of Red Bull Air Race veterans, Peter Besenyei and Paul Bonhomme, two slots opened up in the Masters Class for 2016. Those slots have been filled by Slovenian racer Peter Pondlunsek and Petr Kopfstein from the Czech Republic.

The Red Bull Air Racers will compete in eight locations around the world, starting in Abu Dhabi on March 11 and 12.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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