News

Some news before the World Aerobatic Championships

A lot has happened over the last three months and at last we’ve caught up with Melanie to find out what happened, how she is and what is coming up.

Melanie, we remember you had some health problems in April. Are you better and have you been able to resume your activities?

Yes, thank you, all is good. With my head full of projects, and having gone back to training, both physically and mentally, my health is back on track. During May, I resumed my aerobatic training camps with my coach Pierre Varloteaux in Mende and Ussel, where we are always given a warm welcome, in preparation for the Unlimited British championship in June and the Unlimited French championship in July.

Two national championship competitions… that’s a lot of pressure. How did they go?

Well, June 2019 will be a month to remember for me. For the first time, I took part in the British Unlimited Aerobatics Championship at Sywell (20-23 June) and won the title. Sywell is not far from the town of Rugby where I was born, hence my dual nationality French and British. After two days of competition, 4 programmes 3 of which unknown, it was with a great emotion that I was able to lift the winner’s beautiful trophy, with the great score of 79,6%! In parallel, I also won the Freestyle competition. I am grateful to my coach, Pierre Varloteaux, who was a great help in the logistics of the trip to Britain, and also for his moral support throughout. On the way back to France, I had the incredible chance of flying above my birth town, Rugby!!

Congratulations on the UK title! How did the French championship go?

I am quite pleased to see that my hard work pays. I finished 10th overall with 20 competitors, and 2nd woman with a score of 74,933%. That good result motivates me even more to work hard and reach an even higher score.

So, two national aerobatic championships in as many months, quite a feat! No doubt that was not all you did…

Indeed, I managed a quick escape to London to shoot a publicity spot for a school project. I also spent a couple of days in Clermont- Ferrand, in order to renew my instructor licence, as part of future projects. Also in May, we started the shooting of a short video directed by Tom Braxstone, of Epic Digital Motion, who is able to capture on film the emotions I can feel when flying. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, we had to postpone the rest of the shooting towards the end of the summer.

We heard you did not have the best of birthday surprises… tell us more.

On 29 May came unexpected news from Red Bull Air Race. They had decided to stop the air races after 2019; and for 2019, only three races would be flown, Kazan, Lake Balaton, and Chiba. I was advised that I would no longer fly in Kazan, but instead would fly two races in Lake Balaton in Hungary on 13-14 July. What a birthday present!

Wow! That must have been a shock! How did you react?

Well, it was announced in a very laconic way by email to all concerned, only a couple of hours before the press release. So obviously for a lot of us the prospect of having to reorganise our sporting year was quite a shock and disturbing. I was very sad to hear the news but I keep a sense of pride to have been accepted to fly with the other Challengers as the first and only woman. New horizons open to me now with nice projects ahead.

You were seen at the Salon International de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace at Le Bourget, a worldwide major aviation event in France, every other year

I was invited by my sponsors Michelin and Alsim. I tried Alsim’s great new simulator and did some very rock and roll landings! I also spent some valuable time with the Michelin family. I am so grateful to my sponsors for their unfailing support. Two great days at Le Bourget, but then I had to fly to Sywell for the British National Championships.

Your next challenge was two races in Hungary for Red Bull Air Race, the last ones for you. There were problems with the 1st race, tell us more…
Due to some general logistics and mechanical problems on the Friday, and the bad and changing weather on the Saturday, the Challengers were given very little time to train on the track.
When my turn to train came, I was told it was too late.
The Saturday Challenger race had to take place immediately, and, as a pilot is not allowed to compete without a minimum training time, I was declared DNS (Did Not Start). No need to say how frustrated and upset I was, but it is all in the past now. Only good things remain, like meeting very special fans!
On Sunday 14th July, although I would have loved to hear the Marseillaise for the French National Day, I did a good flight but only came 5th. Considering I had 6 minutes training throughout the week, I am quite pleased with my result. Quite an emotional day, as this was my very last flight for Red Bull Air Race.

After turning that page, you turned up at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA… the biggest light aircraft airshow in the world!
The EAA Air Venture Oshkosh is the largest yearly aviation meeting in the U.S.A., celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. I attended as Michelin ambassador. For me, 3 intense days of meeting the public, with presentations and autograph sessions, forums on women in aviation… I spent some time with the Alsim team there and met the CEO Jean-Paul Monnin. It was one happy occasion for Alsim, as they were celebrating the sale of four AL 250 simulators that day. Oshkosh is always a great and unique experience for me and for all the aviation enthusiasts.

After all that will you have time for some rest?
Not at all! Such a success is due to many hours of work and training, with my team. But also the encouragement and support from friends, family, fans and of course my sponsors ESAF, Michelin, BMW, Alsim, PIMA Air & Space Museum, Group Galilé, ATM. So it was back to work with the forthcoming objective of the World Aerobatic Championships in August. The competition takes place on 21st to 31st August at Chateauroux, France. After Oshkosh, I had to quickly get back into my routine of physical and mental training. And of course, back in my plane on training camps: the first one at Montceau les Mines, under the guidance of Pierre Varloteaux.

So, who will you be flying for, because we heard that you were not able to get into the French team?

Just after the French National Championships, I had the confirmation that the British Aerobatics team offered me a place in their team, and therefore for me the possibility to take part in the World Championship thanks to my British nationality and my win at Sywell. I am very proud to represent Great Britain, the country I was born in, and so grateful to be given this chance to fly with my new team mates Phil Burgess, Chris Brook and Nick Onn… so it’s back to work!

Melanie, do you ever slow down?

Yes, I did… one day at home, riding my new motorbike BMW F850GS, courtesy of my sponsor BMW, in the lovely Provence. Then it’s back to training in preparation for the World Aerobatic Championship.

 

So let’s all go to Chateauroux, for the World Championship at the end of August!

Yes! I hope to see you all there, and in the meanwhile,

TO DREAM, TO FLY, TO INSPIRE… SMILE ON !