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Pete McLeod of Red Lake takes 3rd in world air racing competition

A pilot from Red Lake is making his mark in an extreme sport where pilots weave high-performance aircraft around giant pylons, at speeds of over 300 kilometres an hour.
The world championship air-racing competition was recently held in Abu Dhabi. Pilots are timed as they weave high-performance aircraft around giant pylons, at speeds of over 300 kilometres an hour. (© Red Bull Media House)

A pilot from Red Lake is making his mark in the extreme sport of air racing.

Pete McLeod recently finished third in a world championship race in Abu Dhabi.

Pilots are timed as they weave high-performance aircraft around giant pylons, at speeds of over 300 kilometres an hour.

McLeod said, at that rate, there's no time to be scared.

"I guess it's not for the faint of heart to be in the plane, especially if you didn't like flying,” he said.

“But it's a lot of excitement. For me, I grew up in an airplane up in Red Lake, [where there was] a lot of bush flying. To be in an airplane is very normal and I've got a passion for speed and performance."

He said the aircraft are flown at a low level, between 30 and 50 feet in the air.

"Being in the cockpit of that airplane in the racetrack is one of the happiest places for me I can think of,” he said.

The last world championship race was in Germany in 2010. The race has been on hiatus since then as organizers overhauled the competition, including efforts to make the race safer.

McLeod, 30, said it's been tough not to be able to compete, but he's "thrilled" to be back at it.

“The race tracks are tremendously safe,” he said. “The pylons are designed so that if we do hit them — they're air-filled — they just kind of burst." 

McLeod said air-racing takes him around the world, but he visits Red Lake as often as he can to visit family and to go moose hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling.

"It's been quite a ride and, I've said it before, it's a big eye-opener [and] quite a ride for just a kid from Red Lake, Ont."

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