Patrick Davidson is a consummate aerobatics champion, competing solo for the first time on his 17th birthday and the first Red Bull Air Race Challenger pilot chosen from South Africa. These are just two of several highlights from his illustrious aerobatics career to date, and there is no doubt so much more to come.
“I just love to fly, and each and every aircraft is special in its own way,” he says. Patrick’s passion for aviation is perhaps best summed up when he states: “The best part about flying is the take-off – because you still have the whole flight to look forward to…”
A flying family
Born in 1982 in the UK, Patrick has aviation in his blood, as both his father and his grandfather were renowned display pilots. Growing up around South Africa’s airfields with his dad as mentor and trainer, Davidson was eager to get behind the controls himself, winning his first contest with a safety pilot at the age of 12. By 25 years of age, he became SA’s youngest aerobatic champion, securing a spot in his first FAI World Aerobatic Championship. Since then, Patrick has taken a number of national aerobatic titles and has twice been named Aero Club South Africa’s pilot of the year.
Grounded in lockdown
How has someone with so much passion for being airborne dealt with lockdown? Besides keeping busy with his day to day business responsibilities where possible, he says that he was fortunate enough to make good use of his home gym and maintain a fitness routine 4-5 days a week. “Also having a 1 and 6-year-old at home, my wife and I were not looking for things to do, they kept us on our toes. I can say though that my UNO skills are now up there!” he says.
Not surprisingly, what he missed the most during lockdown was not being able to fly, but also the normality of life that we all take for granted. And where is the first place he wants to visit once we reach level 1? “I really love South Africa, so I won’t be in a hurry to travel abroad, any game farm will do for me,” he says.
Future of air shows
When asked when he hopes to see the air show circuit resuming and what effect he thinks this global pandemic might have on airshows and aviation events in the future, he says that it is a real concern.
“I do feel that life will never be normal or as we knew it so we will just adapt and shift the way we do things to suit. I think that brands like Red Bull have already got somewhat of an upper hand in this regard, as I see the social media, virtual type of airshows/demos will become more of the norm in the future,” he says.
He says although a tough question to answer, his favourite local airshows include Stellenbosch and Virginia, although there is nothing better than flying in front of your hometown of Port Elizabeth. “On an international level, I don’t necessarily have a favourite, but what I can say is that the people and the experience that you take away from these international events is what I love. I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible people on my travels, most of whom I am privileged enough to still call my best friends”.
Gives you wings!
Davidson says that a definite career highlight for him was signing as a Red Bull athlete. “In a brand that does nothing at half measures and selects only the best in the respective disciplines, I see them having noticed my achievements and continuing to sign me as definitely the highlight of my flying career thus far”.
In 2018, Patrick began his Red Bull Air Race career in the World Championship’s feeder category, the Challenger Class. As a newcomer to the Red Bull Air Race, Davidson claimed his first qualifying win and second place podium finish in only his third race in Kazan, Russia. He subsequently captured another pole and third place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – all promising results for a first-year competitor.
“It is an honour to fly the South African flag and I have been amazed and gratified by the amount of support I have received from South Africa and South Africans living abroad,” Davidson states.
A flight of aircraft
Patrick has logged more than 2,500 flying hours in more than 30 different types of aircraft. These include the L39, T-6, Sea Fury, Yak-3, Yak-18, Yak-52, Yak-55, Stearman, Sukhoi, Extra, Sbach, T28 and P51 to name just a few. He also possesses experience in commercial flying.
Message for the youth
His advice to the youth, especially those wanting to pursue a career in aviation? “I have always said if you want something bad enough you will make it happen, be prepared to sacrifice and put in the effort, the rest will follow naturally!”