Now in his third season of Challenger Class competition, Luke Czepiela is an accomplished Polish aerobatics pilot who has enjoyed the view from his national podium and twice represented his country at the World Unlimited Aerobatic Championships. In 2016 he stood on the podium at every Red Bull Air Race stop he flew except one – and even in that exception he delivered the best time in Qualifying.
Czepiela, who makes his home in Katowice, is living a boyhood dream that began when his father took him to an air show. Fascinated, he eventually became a "hangar rat" at the local airfield, working to earn glider lessons. By age 15 he was pursuing an engineering degree with the goal of working on aircraft.
Czepiela served as an aircraft engineer, had a job in flight operations for a flying school and was crew chief for the UK's prestigious Honda Dream Team. He also took up airplane aerobatics himself. In only his second year of aerobatic competition (2010), he won the Advanced category at the L. Marchelewski Memorial and took third place at the Polish Advanced Aerobatic Nationals.
Today he flies as a commercial airline captain on the Airbus A320 series, as well as a member of the Polish Aerobatics Team and the Firebirds Aerobatic Team, and has logged more than 7,300 flying hours.
Czepiela raced in the Challenger Class in 2014 and then took a season's hiatus. He returned in 2016 more hungry than ever, claiming his first race win at the motorsport mecca of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and earning two finishes in third (Chiba, Budapest) as well as a second-place result (EuroSpeedway Lausitz).
"Since 2004 when I saw my first Red Bull Air Race, I dreamt about being part of it," Czepiela shares. "In 2014 my dream became a reality, and I've learned a lot. Now I know more about mental and physical preparation, I understand more about track analysis and how to get the most out of a raceplane, and I've gained in confidence. I think it's a more mature approach that will produce continued good results."