A Red Bull Air Race in Hong Kong? The wheels are in motion, says Kenny Chiang

Former Cathay Pacific pilot Kenny Chiang is blazing a trail in Red Bull World Championship, but has bigger dreams for popularising his passion in his home city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 9:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 6:18pm

Hong Kong’s only professional air race pilot said his dream of bringing an air race to Victoria Harbour is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Kenny Chiang, the Red Bull World Championship Challenger Class racer who made history last weekend by winning back-to-back races, believes the wheels are finally in motion to host a leg or an exhibition in the city, even though it still may be a way off.

“The dream is to bring an air race to Hong Kong and show the people what we can do,” he said.

“I think a lot of people are working hard to make that happen. I know multiple parties are working to achieve this goal.”

The 28-year-old secured first place in a Red Bull Air Race double-header leg in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, last weekend, showing just how far he’s come since his days as a Cathay Pacific pilot.

“I feel very proud,” he said. “General aviation in Hong Kong is not a mature market so to represent [the city] among the best in the world is a real privilege.

“It’s a great opportunity to show youngsters it’s all possible. After all, I did all my training with a local Hong Kong airline.”

The clean sweep in Austria propelled Chiang from 10th to joint first on the leader board, putting him in contention for a Cup final spot to determine the overall champion. Only the top six pilots qualify for the showdown in Fort Worth, United States, in November.

“I feel really good because before coming into that weekend I wasn’t sure I’d be in the final race,” said Chiang, who briefly returns to Hong Kong before heading to the US for the penultimate calendar race in Indianapolis on October 6.

“My objective was to secure a final spot and we have had a very consistent run. It’s the first time in the history of the Red Bull Air Race that there’s been a back-to-back winner, but the key was just consistency,” he said.

Chiang is no stranger to breaking records. He is the first Hong Kong pilot to fly aerobatics on the international stage, the first Asian to medal at the World Acrobatic Championships, the first Chinese racer to win in the Red Bull Air Race, and one of the youngest pilots in history to fly a Boeing 747 and 777 commercial aircraft.

In his rookie campaign last year, Chiang struck gold in the Kazan, Russia leg and has been shaving his lap times ever since.

Having leapfrogged the rest of the pack in emphatic style, Chiang is cautiously optimistic he can maintain his form and continue to promote Hong Kong on the international air race scene.

“There are still 20 points up for grabs in the remaining two races; our focus is on race to race,” he said. “I feel like we’re improving, but the tough thing about air racing is we’re talking about 0.1 or 0.2 of a second – the margins are so fine, anything can happen.”