Matt Hall, ‘it’s all about not making mistakes’
Matt Hall made his debut in the RedBull airraces in 2009, he made a name for himself finishing 3rd overall in the season. We had the opportunity to talk to Matt over Skype and tried to find out who he is and what his goals are.
Matt started flying at a very young age, it was a natural thing to do, his father is a pilot and his grandfather flew for the Royal Australian Air Force in world war II. While flying for the RAAF he applied for an exchange program with the US air force and ended up flying combat missions in F-15E’s in the Gulf War.
- In the RAAF you flew F-18′s, with the USAF you had the F-15E to work with, flying into a hotzone, what aircraft would you pick and why?
Both aircraft are very good, but in case of trouble I would choose the F-15 for the ordnance it can carry, The F/A-18 could quickly run out of fuel and weapons.
- In your life you flew a great number of aircraft, Air Force jets, old War birds, your MX Race plane and many more.Â Do you have a favourite?
It is very difficult to choose a favourite because in different situations you like different aircraft. I almost attach each aircraft to a differentÂ emotion, at this time I’m very into my new aircraft (MX-S) it’s an amazing aircraft and the most exciting I’ve ever flown,Â but if someone would line up all the aircraft I have flownÂ and say I could only fly one for a year I would definitely choose for the P-51 Mustang. It is such an event when you fire up that engine and feel it come alive right up to the landing.
- Last year you flew a number of different circuits in the Redbullairrace, in Porto you finished 3rd, and in Barcelona you ended up at a 9th position. Can you say that you have a certain kind of circuit suits you best?
I think the ‘turning-tracks’ suits me best cause straight-line tracks tend to comes down more to the aircraft. On a turning-track it’s all about the pilot. In 2009 I did well in the first two races in Abu Dhabi and San Diego, and they were both turning-tracks. The result in Portugal was good, but I think I was lucky there. Everybody was pushing it very hard there and they were fast, but a lot of mistakes were made. I took it slower in Porto to avoid penalties and that took me a long way.
In Barcelona I was actually doing quite well in training, I even scored the second best time, but at race day I made a mistake and that forced me out, otherwise I could have done quite well in Barcelona. There you see that in the race it is all about not making mistakes.
- What was the toughest race for you in 2009?
That was Windsor, I felt some pressure there because of my good results earlier as a rookie and everybody said I would end up at the podium, certainly after a good qualification. On the other end it could go bad and I would go flat out after the good results at the start of the season.
The track was harder as I expected it to be, and the changes of the wind on race day were difficult for me as an inexperienced air race pilot.
All those things added up on me, and at the end of the race I was not enjoying it at all.
- How different is a land race compared to a race over water? or is it just the setup of the plane?
I don’t think it matters to much to me, over land it is slightly easier because you have a better depth perception. For example in Barcelona the first gate you take makes you fly out to sea and at that time you have no reference of a shoreline, that makes it difficult. As long as you have a shoreline, buildings or other landmark’s it’s easier because you have depth.
- This year there will be mainly two different types of aircraft, do you think that by using only one type of aircraft the air-races would be even more exiting?
I think the pilots should be able to choose the aircraft that they want to fly, it might turn out that everybody uses the same airframe, but I think we will get more out of the sport when pilots can choose their own favorite.
This year you can already see that the different types look remarkably the same, like in formula 1 it’s in small details.
- Between the seasons, is there contact with the other pilots of the RedBull Air Races?
Yes, there is contact, if I get the change to meet up with an other pilot I will definitely take the opportunity to catch up. Nigel Lamb was in Australia in December, so we caught up and even did an air show together.
I was in Austria and the US where we all caught up together and talked about how we were going on and we definitely have a meal and a drink.
- Do you discuss developments and issues on the new aircraft for the next season with the others when you meet up?
We do talk about the new planes, mostly about the problems and not so much about the solutions ;o) we all want the other to think you got a lot of issues, and you don’t really tell about the little extras you found out to make the plane better. When the season starts it will be a surprise for all of us what the other did.
- Do you think there is a lot of extra pressure on you because you had such a great season as a rookie last year?
There is more pressure, actually I expect more of myself. I know that all I want to do is to improve. Last year I came third in the championship, but I wasn’t a contender for the first or second place, I just came ahead of the guys that made mistakes.
This year I want to make less mistakes, I want to be more consistent in getting very fast, clean times. If it turns out that there are faster guys out there, but I improved myself I will be satisfied.
- You are a family-man, how about the risks in flying the Air Race, how far would you push to win a race?
I have been in a lot of risky situations in my life, and I think a have a pretty good perspective on risk versus reward. The reward of winning the air races is not worth of killing yourself. Air Racing is risky, and you can always get into situations that could end up in a crash, but hitting a bird or having an engine failure is something that can happen to anyone, that is not something you can rule out. I’m pushing hard, but never taking unnecessary risks.
- In your official RedBull video you express the wish to ‘one day fly into space’ how serious are you about that?
I was pretty serious about that eight years ago, I talked with people at NASA, but it would be a difficult thing to achieve with a long line of other pilots, because I’m Australian and Australia is not in the ISS project, and with the Space Shuttle programme shutting down the changes were just to small.
If I want to go out into space now, I will have to look out for the private sector developments at the moment like Virgin Galactic.
- Last question, who will be the man to beat this year?
As always Paul Bonnhome will be very strong, he makes little mistakes and is very consistent in the races. A lot of guys have the potential to win races, I all comes down to who makes the least mistakes, and is the most consistent.
Matt could not compete on race day in Abu Dhabi, due to technical problems his airplane could not be started on time, His home race in Australia went very well, Just a split second difference with winner Hannes Arch made him finish at a great second place ahead of Paul Bonnhome. In the overall ranking after two races he stands on a shared third place with Hannes Arch and Nigel Lamb.
No longer a rookie Matt Hall is a fast factor in the very exciting RedBull Air Race 2010, A man with a well thought out plan to achieve his goals.