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Mels Mad Summer… or how to not take a vacation!

While most of us have taken time off from everyday life and spent time relaxing in the sun, Melany has been, well, very busy. Let’s try to catch up with her…

Melanie, another 4th place at the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest, that must be so frustrating.

Again, I flew great times in the practices. In Qualification, I played safe, it was not my best time but my flight was smooth and clean and I knew the lines I had to fly. On race day, I performed a super flight, but yet again, I finished 4th, at the foot of the podium. I was very disappointed, as I stalled in my second VTM and that cost me the race and a podium finish. The VTM is the most important manoeuvre during the race and a stall makes you lose so much time. Luke’s flight was magic. Congrats to him and Florian. Happy for Daniel Genevey for his very first podium. I was very happy to see again Peter Besenyei, one of the first Red Bull Air Race pilots and Champion. He’s a national aviation hero in Hungary, and also a friend. He gave me some precious advice before the race. Sadly, the stall stopped any chance of winning. In any case, I know I am getting closer and improving at every race. Improvement and consistency is key to winning and I have that. One really nice thing is that I finally realised my dream to fly above the Danube River for the first time.

Great! That was in June… what about your summer? How did that go?

Time flies and already summer is over! I have been so busy. To start with, as you know I was invited to become the Sponsor of the Escadrille des Services D’Aerodrome of the French Army Light Aviation flight school in Dax. I was invited to the official ceremony on July 1st and what an occasion it was. I met so many people dedicated to aviation from many different walks of life. I was treated like a princess all weekend so thank you to everyone in Dax. I am really proud to be their “marraine”. I also want to say congratulations to Delphine, an Air Traffic Controller there, who had a baby girl in July…. Welcome Lucie! Also my encouragements to Sebastien, who is also a controller, and who is on a mission in Mali. Hang in there!

Melanie, you were also seen in Chambley this summer. What was that about?

I took part in the aerobatics Unlimited French Championship in Chambley. As I entered the competition really late, I had little training on the different programmes. I gave everything I could, and I am very happy with my average mark of 71,5%, taking into account the fact that I scored two zeros on my last flight, for wrong figures. I finished 3rd female ranking and 14th overall out of 21. I learnt a lot, and I was satisfied with my flights. I will put into practice all those lessons during my training camps for the world championship in 2019 in France.

That is big news! And I am going to ask you gain… how is your training coming along?

I have been flying aerobatics a lot this summer. Pierre Varloteaux is coaching me and making me progress really quickly. It’s a shame we did not have much time before the French Championships. I also worked with Patrick Paris and I was happy to see how impressed he was with my flying. It’s a great feeling to know and feel that you are progressing. It’s a great energy booster.

Then you changed continents and turned up at Oshkosh, the world’s biggest airshow.

What an amazing experience! I had the great honour and pleasure to be invited by my new sponsor Michelin for a few days at this huge event. An incredible place, huge crowds, more than 600 000 visitors over the week, thousands of planes of all types, ages, countries and eras. A dream for every aviation enthusiast. It’s impossible to describe what it’s like and how lucky I feel to have been there at last, because this also is a dream come true. A big thank you to Michelin for this wonderful adventure. Looking forward to Oshkosh Air Venture 2019!

After all that did you take a holiday in August like everyone else in France?

I guess that is where I’m not so French. I had several aerobatic training courses in August and I’m really happy about how they went. Then I flew to Kazan for the next Red Bull Air Race.

Kazan in Russia, your third race of the season. A very technical race course from what we heard.

Yes it was. Very challenging for everyone and a great experience. It took a while to find the right lines and even then, there did not seem to be one that made you fast all around the track. I also had to get used to the Edge 540 again as I had been flying my BMW Extra 330SC all summer since Budapest. The controls are a lot heavier on the Edge 540. The weather was great although the wind caused problems for some pilots. I flew well throughout the weekend and even put on my own show during practice when I had a pretty violent pylon hit and took part of the pylon with me that forced me to break off the run and land. As always, practice and qualifications went really well but once again, I finished 4th, by a whisker. I did not win the first place, but I was very happy with my flight. My best reward was to know that during my run, Paul Bonhomme made some very nice comments about my flight. The light was green during my first lap, but red on the second one, and the commentary was that there seemed to be an engine issue. I had not set my engine properly, but I learnt the lesson.

Melanie, you are forever busy, so what’s next?

No time to lose: upon my return from Kazan, I was off on another aerobatics training camp
The next Red Bull Air Race will take place on 15-16 September, at Wiener Neustadt, in Austria, for me the 4th race this year. Austria is a country I love and is special for me, as my very first RBAR race took place in Austria in Spielberg in 2016.

What are your thoughts going into the Austrian race?

Even if, so far, I remained at the foot of the podium this year, my aim is to continue to fly well, but to also continue to improve my flights and times. My team and I can see this happen, however sometimes you need a smile from Lady Luck so that this time I can clinch victory! It’s a standing start for this race which suits me fine. So a new challenge is in front of me for the coming week. I remain positive and confident, with a smile.

Smoke On… Smile On !

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