15 Oct 2017

Red Bull Air Race 2017: 'Grab it with both hands'

Matt Hall was the fastest in Qualifying at the Red Bull Air Race 2017 in Indianapolis, but was knocked out in the final rounds after hitting a pylon. However, his year has been a good one, as he explained. 

Matt, you didn't make the podium but you have had a pretty good year

I’ve spent the season climbing slowly through the ranks. That is the second race in a row we have won Qualifying. And we've been on three podiums the last three races in a row. We are finishing the season strongly, it was just a hard start for us.

What makes you fast?

Consistency. We have worked all year with a game plan to be strong at the end of the year. We wrote the first half of the year off, because we had a new aircraft that we had to adapt and adjust, and a new team that we had to train. We decided not to worry about results and just use our time on the track to learn about the aircraft and have the team learn. But the objective was we wanted to be able to win races by the end of the year, so we have the mould for 2018, and we've achieved that.

Regardless of what happens, we know we can win races, it's just a matter of coming into 2018 ready to go.

How did you get into air sports in the first place?

I've always been involved in aviation, I was flying gliders aged 15 and then into ultralights. My dad is a pilot, and he was towing the gliders. I used to ride with him. 15 was the earliest you could get a gliding licence in Australia so I started gliding. 

Then my Dad bought an ultralight so I stated flying that. Then I got my general aviation licence as a teenager by converting. I started hang gliding too because it was cheaper. Then I joined the air force and flew jet fighters for 18 years, and in that time got back into doing competition aerobatics just to challenge myself. I was doing alright in the military but I wanted to test myself against the civilian pilots.

How did you start flying the Red Bull Air Race?

I got into aerobatics and all of a sudden found myself of interest to the Red Bull Air Race – a fighter pilot with combat experience, plus also a competition aerobatic pilots: they said that's an interesting combo, you should jump in and give this a crack. And that's what I now do full time.

How does flying the Red Bull Air Race compare to all those things you did before?

Everything is different. Flying is great no matter what you do. I've got a Supercub that I love floating around it, I fly warbirds and they are amazing to fly. This is probably the most exciting flying anyone can ever do. I say that I am probably one of the few fighter pilots in history – apart from the guys that walked on the moon – that actually got to step up after flying fighters to an even more exciting type of flying.

The planes are amazing, there is nothing else like it. And to fly at 50 ft in downtown locations, it’s amazing.

How do young people get into aviation?

There are so many ways. I have been told by many people that it's too expensive, but it's not. I'm not from a wealthy family. I started gliding because it was the cheapest form of flying at the time. With all the recreational aircraft out there these days, you can can do it. 

You can do it on a part time wage, as a student, you just have to have the passion. If you have the passion, you can make it happen. Just be passionate, and if you see an opportunity then be ready to grab it with both hands and don't let it go, you'll find yourself doing amazing things for a career. 

Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool