Juan Velarde is currently one of Spain’s top pilots. He excelled in the inaugural Red Bull Air Race Challenger Cup in 2014. The Madrid native has been an enthusiastic follower of the Red Bull Air Race since its creation and worked meticulously on improving his flying skills over the years to win a cockpit in the world’s fastest motorsport series.
The 2015 season witnessed Velarde grow as a pilot and by the final race in Las Vegas he was hot on the heels of the other Master Class competitors.
Velarde is a friendly and approachable character with a smooth and accurate style of flying that impressed the Challenger Cup judges and his fans in Spain. He is a commercial pilot for Iberia Airlines and has been flying the Airbus A340 and A330 on trans-Atlantic flights for years.
He began flying gliders at 15 and made his first solo flight when he turned 16. His father was a B747 captain and great flying enthusiast. After finishing school, Velarde went to Anchorage, Alaska to gain his Private Pilot’s Licence and returned to Spain, where he worked towing gliders while studying to become a commercial pilot. He later became a flight instructor in Fort Worth, Texas. In Spain he worked as a freight pilot and joined Iberia at just 22 years of age.
Velarde began flying aerobatics in 1999 and later joined the Spanish National Aerobatic Team. He took part in all the European and World Aerobatic Championships between 2004 and 2011. He helped Spain win the team silver medal at the 2007 World Aerobatics Championships and in 2010, Velarde won the Spanish national overall aerobatics championship. He has two gold, four silver, and one bronze medal in Spain’s National Championship.