Everybody in the air racing community has been asking what happened to the likable Englishman after the roster came out with only 15, as opposed to 16 pilots in the premier series of air racing.
Until today, the question was not answered fully. I speculated that maybe it was time to hang up his flight suit and pursue his other interests like working on and racing vintage cars, which he actively does in the offseason.
However, it turns out according to the Red Bull Air Race, that the senior Boeing 747 captain at British Airways was unable to secure himself for one of the 15 spots that was offered this year and thus is unable to race in 2009.
However, his career with the Red Bull Air Race isn't over. Jones is going to be an aviation consultant with the series. His main job will be to coach the four rookies this year and to ensure that their integration into the new sport of air racing is safe.
Jones is not the first former air racing pilot to leave the series only to remain with the series in some other capacity.
Klaus Schrodt left the series at the end of the 2007 season and holds a similar position to Jones as aviation consultant; Frank Versteegh, Schrodt's former teammate, also left at the end of 2007 and is now a commentator with the series.
Versteegh comments alongside Nick Fellows, the main commentator, for every race broadcast.
Steve Jones, over the course of his air racing career, has won two air races including the Budapest air race—the equivalent of the Monaco Grand Prix—in 2006, has stood on the podium six times, and has accumulated 70 points over his six year career.
Going from competitor to coach will be a change and we wish him well.