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Autumn, start of the off-season… but not for Mel!

With off-season arriving quickly most pilots slow down, regroup, relax and generally chill. Let’s catch up with Mélanie to see what up…

Mélanie, last time we spoke was before your Red Bull Air Race in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. How did you prepare for that race?

Early September, I was back to physical training, particularly running. It was hard work, but I gave my best as this was going to be beneficial for my preparation for my next Red Bull Air Race and my aerobatics. I needed to keep pushing more.

How did the September race in Wiener Neustadt go?

The venue for the race was the military West Airport, in Wiener Neustadt, about 30 kms South of Vienna. Like in Indianapolis, I love the standing start, and for the crowds, it is always more spectacular. There were 9 Challengers competing in 2 races. On practice day, it quickly became obvious that the race would be very close. Anything could happen. I did a fantastic time, despite the heavy rain which invited itself at the end of FP2. In these conditions, the plane tends to stall a lot.

On race day, I flew with my heart and passion, I gave it all. After a great flight, and my personal best of 1.04.300, I finished 4th (again!) – 4 races, 4 times fourth! Success is just a breath of luck away!

Unfortunately my RBAR season was finished. I am happy with what I have accomplished, but sad to leave my friends in the Challenger team, and my fans of course, and their unconditional support. I am grateful to my sponsors, they are so special for me and I will always give my best because I feel lifted by them.

And then I guess, you had to prepare for the next aerobatics competition, the Open de France, or did you attend other events?

Immediately after the Austrian race, I was back on aerobatics training camps, in Burgundy. Then Michelin invited me to attend the Meeting Aérien de Roanne on September 23, for a static display of my plane. It was great to fly to Roanne with my Extra FH-MEL on such a beautiful sunny day. I was very happy to see again my friend Bibendum, but could not get him in my plane!
I am a very lucky person as on 2 October, I went to Paris to the Mondial de l’Auto, before the official opening to the public, invited by my other sponsor BMW. It was great to see the team again and the other BMW ambassadors, Loïck Peyron, Martin Fourcade, Ari Vatanen, Yannick Dalmas, Arnaud Assoumani, and Alexandre Delperier.

This is all fun and exciting, but not much time left before your next big aerobatics competition, the Open de France in Salon de Provence. (4-7 October). How did that go?

My intensive unlimited aerobatics training the previous weeks helped me progress day after day, flight after flight. I was feeling really fit and ready.
Everything went well for this super competition: beautiful weather, little wind, great organisation, great aviation meeting, with a wonderful show of the Patrouille de France, the Rafale. It was great to see my friends of the EVAA (Equipe de Voltige de l’Armée de l’Air) again and the other competitors.
The Open de France is a national competition, so I had to give my best. I was the only woman competing at the Unlimited level, and the competition was challenging. All 10 Unlimited pilots have a very high level. From Day 1, I felt the force was with me with 78% on the Known Program, which was my best result up to that day in the Unlimited category, my emotional mark must have been 1000%!
After 3 programs, my overall mark was 75.75%. Finally, I ranked 3rd overall with a great average of 76%. I also finished 2nd in the mini unknown 6 figure program with 78,4% in the semi-final and 78% in the final. I am happy with my results and my huge progress during that event, but also I saw ways of improving further. I finished the competition knowing that I can go higher, do better, and I am ready for new challenges and adventures.
On the Saturday evening, we had the privilege to attend a fabulous party for the 50th anniversary of E.V.A.A. I wish to thank Base 701 for their great organisation over the weekend to make this event memorable. For me, it was just fantastic to achieve my best on their ground.

Then you ran off to Croatia for something completely different… the Croatia Island Trophy.

A totally new adventure for me. A 3 day trail, including paddling, canoeing, swimming, mountain biking and running. All the competitors are women and compete in teams of two; the idea being that you have to stand together in the effort. We were 90 women dispatched on 3 boats, taken to a different island every day for the various sporting events.
Part of the benefits from this event went to the Keep Abreast Foundation, which encourages prevention against breast cancer, in particular with their app called Check Yourself.
A big thank you to E.S.A.F. for sponsoring me and my team mate Marine giving us the opportunity to take part in this great adventure. A big change for me, as the challenges were on earth, and water, far from my usual playground among the clouds.

What about the other Mélanie, the business woman?

Apart from my sports career, I run my company Airmel, and that includes occasionally giving motivational speeches, or talks. I try to convey the passion and drive that continues to motivate me to do better every day.
I gave a speech in Marseilles for the recently created Le Club du Leadership. It’s something I enjoy doing and I’ve met some really interesting people over the years that I am still in contact with.
I have more conferences lined up in the near future, in France, Monaco and in the United States.

Mélanie, winter is here, the flying season is over now. How do you feel looking back on 2018?

All in all, I had a really intense season, with challenges early on in the year. But the progress I have made is amazing and I’m really happy about that. I was a whisker away from podium finishes on all four of my air races and my 3rd place at the French National Open was a great end to the season and gives me a lot of confidence for next year. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me this year. It is always a team effort. So stay tuned and…

Smoke On… Smile On !