Martin Sonka is a decorated Czech Air Force pilot with a decade of aerobatics experience who has turned his aviation background into success in the Red Bull Air Race. A soft-spoken but determined man, Sonka was admired for his steady improvement in his first season in 2010 when he chose to be patient and to focus on refining his flying through the Air Gates rather than trying to get good results quickly. The strategy was widely applauded and proved successful as Sonka’s performances steadily improved throughout the season. It paid off in Spielberg when he finished on the podium in the final race of the season.
2015 was a milestone season for Sonka, with two podiums and four Final 4 finishes he has come into his own and will be a strong contender for the World Championship title from now on.
Sonka has been a fighter pilot and member of the prestigious Czech Air Force display team flying the L-159 Alca. He also flies a supersonic jet fighter, JAS-39, in the 211th Tactical Squadron at the Caslav Air Force Base.
Sonka began flying gliders at the age of 17 at the Tabor Aeroclub near his hometown of Dvur Kralove nad Labem. He joined the Czech Air Force in 1997 and studied at the military academy in Brno. He completed his studies with a master’s degree in 2005. He started flying aerobatics in gliders in 2001 and two years later in powered aircraft. Sonka has been a member of the Czech aerobatic team since 2005 and has flown in the Unlimited Category since 2006. He holds four Unlimited Championship titles and in 2011 he was the runner-up in the World Freestyle Championships.
He got his first taste of the Red Bull Air Race while working as a TV commentator for Czech television during the Budapest race. He admits he was in awe of the high speed, low altitude flying and the beauty of the race as a sport for the masses. He joined the Red Bull Air Race in 2010 at the age of 31 and was the second youngest pilot in the sport’s history.