Phoenix Air Group charter operator, pilot, and NASCAR race car driver Mark Thompson explored the similarities between flying and automobile racing.
Thompson began his aviation career as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and now organizes and executes sensitive aircraft missions around the globe from his Cartersville, Georgia, headquarters. Phoenix’s military air contracting division assists the U.S. Department of Defense, NATO, and other worldwide clients.
Here are the top five similarities Thompson finds between flying and racing.
Preparation: Thompson that said before his race car enters the track, it’s “pretty well prepped out already by the crew.” Prior to taking the controls of an aircraft, however, he will “think out the mission” before he flies it.
Accuracy: Thompson said “racing is all about precision” and he flies with that same level of accuracy, whether it’s a rotory-wing or fixed-wing aircraft.
Anticipation: “Racing is more akin to playing chess” by planning a couple of moves down the road and playing what-if scenarios before they unfold. When flying a Gulfstream or a Learjet, Thompson said he “anticipates center giving me whatever is coming up,” so there are no surprises.
Stamina: “Race car drivers have to be mentally alert” while steering their vehicles through hours of high-speed G forces, dehydration, and muscle strain, he said. Pilots need stamina to stay on top of their game particularly “when hand-flying an airplane in bad weather.”
Thinking: “Racing is a thinking man’s game,” Thompson said, especially for passing maneuvers, steering clear of pileups, and calculating fuel requirements. Pilots must “think well ahead of yourself by considering weather, routes, and comfort.”