Pete McLeod emerged as one of the top Red Bull Air Race pilots in only his third year of competition, 2014, with three podiums including a career-first victory in Las Vegas. The self-proclaimed ‘kid from small-town Canada’ had already rewritten history in 2009, when he became the World Championship series’ youngest pilot at age 25 and the only Canadian ever to compete in elite sport.
One of the most popular aviation figures in Canada, McLeod has built a name and a career for himself thrilling fans with his unique blend of silky-smooth flying and willingness to push the limits all-out to win.
McLeod can’t remember a time when he didn’t know how to fly. Airborne at six weeks old, he first clutched the controls atop his father’s knee at age 3 and got his private pilot’s license at 16. He was an accomplished bush pilot even before pursuing aerobatics as an 18-year-old, earning his aerobatic instructor rating in less than a year. Following successes including the North American Collegiate Championship (while earning an economics degree from the University of Western Ontario), McLeod competed in classical aerobatics internationally before switching his focus to racing.
The maverick from Canada always flies his own way, with a typically hard-charging style that turns the World Championship into a wide-open battle where he regularly upsets longtime favorites – on his way to becoming one himself.
“For me the Red Bull Air Race is an expression of some of the greatest things in life – speed, extreme performance and world-class competition, and doing it all in an airplane!” McLeod states. “I love to fly and I love adventure. So whether it’s speeding through the race track in the Red Bull Air Race; flipping a plane end-over-end during a freestyle demo; or loading up the floatplane for a northern off-grid adventure… I’ll be doing it to the max and with a smile on my face!”
Away from the race track and his globe-trotting schedule, Pete can regularly be found in the expansive nature of Northwestern Ontario. Growing up with the outdoors as his playground, he never misses an opportunity to get back to his roots. “Some of my favourite moments are getting to combine aviation with my passion for the outdoors. For me nature, truly remote locations, and the culture around that is part of me, it runs through my blood – I’m a tourist at in a lot of locations, but I’m always at home in the air and in ‘the bush’.