Ten things to know about Pete McLeod

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service

Pete McLeod of Canada seen in his airplane after landing at the race airport prior the sixth round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Porto, Portugal on August 31, 2017. –
Photographer Credit:
Predrag Vuckovic/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.

3-year-old Pete McLeod inspects the cockpit of a CL-215 “Water Bomber” used to fight forest fires in Canada, 1987 –
Photographer Credit:
Photo Courtesy of Pete McLeod

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.

6-year-old Pete McLeod stands on a pontoon of the family Cessna 180 airplane in Red Lake, ON, Canada, 1990 –
Photographer Credit:
Photo Courtesy of Pete McLeod

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.

Pete McLeod and his father Dave McLeod with their Cessna 180 airplane on the ice in Northern Ontario, Canada, 2000 –
Photographer Credit:
Photo Courtesy of Pete McLeod

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.

Pete McLeod of Canada performs during qualifying day at the seventh round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Lausitzring, Germany on September 16, 2017. –
Photographer Credit:
Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool

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.”

Pete McLeod of Canada returns from his flight during practice day at the seventh round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Lausitzring, Germany on September 15, 2017. –
Photographer Credit:
Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool
Pete McLeod of Canada poses for a photograph prior to the second stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in San Diego, United States on April 14, 2017. –
Photographer Credit:
Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

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