You know that Red Bull Air Race pilot Pete McLeod has been having a standout season in 2017. You also know that he's sitting third in the championship, that he's won four Qualifying sessions in a row and that he's the only Canadian in the World Championship, and the youngest race winner in the history of the sport. But here's what you don't know...
1) He literally grew up in the cockpit
McLeod is a third-generation pilot and took his first flight in the family aeroplane at six weeks old. He clasped the controls from his dad's knee at age three, and got his licence to fly passengers before he earned a licence to drive a car.
Photo courtesy of Pete McLeod
2) He also grew up playing ice hockey, and he's still a fan
McLeod played hockey until age 18 and he says his competitive edge was sharpened on skates. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been his favourite 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, McLeod first learned to take off and land in float (pontoon) planes. He says that bush flying is a lot like flying in racetrack – a dynamic environment, low levels, bodies of water, making snap decisions – even finding paths through the trees is like picking a race line. He thrives on interacting with his environment, which may be why the tougher the course, the better he likes it.
Six year old McLeod stands on a pontoon of the family Cessna 180 airplane in Red Lake, Canada
Photo courtesy of Pete McLeod
4) He's never been sick on a plane
Even when he was new to aerobatics, the Gs never got to McLeod. (There's a rumour, 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. He earned a degree in economics from the University of Western Ontario.
6) He's always been an overachiever
McLeod 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 honours) 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, McLeod 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, McLeod loves to cook fish, game and fresh vegetables 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.
McLeod displays his ice fishing catch in Northern Ontario, Canada at just four years old
Photo Courtesy of Pete McLeod
9) He does a great impersonation of a moose
As a teenager McLeod 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," McLeod 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."
You can see Pete McLeod compete in the season finale and try to become the World Champion in Indianapolis. Get your tickets HERE.