747 Captain Wins 2015 Red Bull Air Race Championship

Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas, Paul Bonhomme captured his record-setting third Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Bonhomme is well-known for his aerobatic skills, but he also happens to be a 747 Captain for British Airways.

At the post race conference, Bonhomme said, “I knew it was going to be hard work, everyone was on their game. We seemed historically to come out of the blocks well… that was pleasing, then it was pretty obvious that everyone else was catching up. Up until 3 o’clock this afternoon, I had no idea what was going to happen.”

Photo courtesy Red Bull Media
Photo courtesy Red Bull Media

Bonhomme won four of eight races this year, taking the 2015 Championship by five points, over Australian Matt Hall. Hall won this weekend’s race in Las Vegas, with Bonhomme taking second. Third place for the 2015 season went to Austrian pilot Hannes Arch. Captain Bonhomme, age 51, has been flying on the Red Bull circuit since 2003, and is the most successful pilot in the Race’s history. He got his pilot’s license at age 18, and has been flying aerobatics for 29 years. American pilot Kirby Chambliss finished 12th in Las Vegas, and 11th overall for the 2015 series. He spent much of the 2015 season making adjustments to his Zivko Edge 540, including winglets and a new canopy.

Peter Besenyei. Photo courtesy Red Bull Media.
Peter Besenyei. Photo courtesy Red Bull Media.

Also this weekend in Las Vegas, the Race also celebrated the career of 59 year-old pilot Peter Besenyei, of Hungary. Besenyei has retired from competitive flying with 22 podium finishes over nine seasons, including eight victories, and the inaugural world title in 2003. He is known as one of the pioneers of the sport.


Photo Essay: My Ten Hours at OshKosh 2010

07:14 – Depart Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) under gloomy dark clouds and light rain.

08:00 – Touchdown at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH), home of EAA Airventure 2010. Taxi and towed to Aeroshell Square. Park nose-to-tail with a C5-C cargo plane.

08:00-18:00 – Drool over vintage and modern aircraft on display and watch aerial performances.

18:06 – Depart OSH

19:04 – Land at MDW

19:14 – Park at SWA Maintenance Hangar, shuttle to the airport. From there we caught a separate shuttle to our hotel.

Choosing a Window Seat, Wisely

As mentioned previously, I have flown my whole life. And for as long as I can remember, I have always loved sitting in a window seat.  I have never worried about how many people I would have to climb over, in the event I need to use the lav during the flight, though I sometimes try to temper my liquid intake beforehand. Too much information there?

You may be wondering why I enjoy the window seat instead of the coveted, roomier aisle seat? There are a few reasons for this. First, it makes the flight seem shorter when you have a view of constantly-changing scenery. Second, I have never been able to sleep well on planes, but having the wall to lean on with the white noise of the engines and air rushing by at Mach .085 does have a calming effect on me. Finally, a window seat view provides the chance to see landmarks that you may never otherwise see – or at least not from this unique perspective.

I do use some strategy in my seat selection when boarding the plane. The first choice to make is my row. I usually like to sit behind the wing because I think the wing provides an interesting element in the photo, along with some sense of scale. I usually fly Southwest Airlines on Boeing 737s and I like row 18 because not only does it have a great wing view, it is also one of the first rows to receive drinks in that section of the plane. My other criteria for selecting a seat is which side to sit on. Some people may never give this a thought. Others may just go with what feels right at the moment, perhaps next to an attractive stranger, or as far as possible from the screaming baby. Here is my Pro Tip: I like to choose my side of the plane based on the direction of our route at cruising altitude, and what side of the plane the sun will be on. For my photos, I like to have the sun on the other side of the plane, versus shining into my window – unless I’m shooting right at sunrise or sunset like in the top photo. Having the sun behind me means that the wing will be lit nicely and there will be little to know glare or sun flare into my camera. So for example, if I am flying North in the morning, I want to sit on the left side of the plane (when seated) because the sun will be on the other side.

Due to the nature of our flight privileges I don’t always get to choose the window seat on or near Row 18, but any window seat can provide an good opportunity for an interesting photo. No matter where I sit, I still try to get some part of the wing or engine into the frame.

Hopefully my seating strategy makes sense to all but the most directionally-challenged. Any camera can take good photos from the window seat. I also like to play with my iPhone camera in flight, using apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram. Wherever you happen to sit, take the opportunity to shoot a few photos and be creative with it. You might surprise yourself with what you or your viewers end up liking.