After the season finale of the Red Bull Air Race in Barcelona in October 2009, I left sports writing to start medical school.
However, the last interview I had performed was with the local hero Alejandro, or Alex, Maclean. Maclean was pretty dejected about the 2009 season but was optimistic for a strong return in 2010.
With my last article done and best wishes received from Team Maclean as I pursued this field, I went from a writer who accidentally stumbled into this sport and found his niche to merely a spectator in what I thought was the coolest sport I had ever come across. I had hoped to return one day in another capacity, but I first had to concentrate on my studies.
Today, tragic news came from Spain that Maclean died in a fatal accident while training for an air show. He was only 41.
It comes with a heavy heart to return to writing—albeit briefly—to pay tribute to one of the most interesting pilots that was in the Red Bull Air Race. I had only interviewed Maclean three times, but being the last pilot to interview with before I pursued another career left me speechless as I read the shocking news this afternoon.
Alex Maclean was one of the most-experienced pilots on the air racing circuit and kept himself out of serious trouble when it came to racing—even under tough conditions—which makes this news even more heart-wrenching.
When I first started in the 2008 season, the Red Bull Air Race wasn't as big as it is today. It mainly had aviation enthusiasts following the sport. My first one-on-one with the pilots came in Detroit that year.
I first met and interviewed Maclean after the cancelled qualifying, since he was quite busy during the media days with others who were more experienced interviewing him, while I was a just a newbie to the whole "interviewing the sports star" process.
This had me wondering: How does a Spanish pilot get more interviews than the three Americans?
It turned out, according to the more experienced journalists and aviation writers, that Maclean was one of the most interviewable pilots!
While I sounded nervous and not completely comfortable with this whole new atmosphere, Maclean took my questions in consideration and answered to the best of his abilities. There was a lot of disappointment since he had very little stick time in his brand new MXS, but he was still very professional and cool, albeit frustrated about the complete cancellation.
Afterwards, when it was time for the media to wrap things up, I quietly asked for a quick fan photo. He smiled!
That was an interesting way to part.
The start of the 2009 season in Abu Dhabi was quite interesting since I was more used to the whole hubbub that is caused whenever the Red Bull Air Race rolls into town, and again, I spoke with Maclean. Nothing special here, except for the fact that his team coordinator (TC), Carola, had a close stumble just as the interview began and we all had to keep ourselves from full-out laughing!
That was the last time I was able to speak one-on-one with Alex Maclean.
I was never able to speak with Maclean in Windsor, Canada, because of the Spanish-language media overrunning his hangar, and it looked like he was taking it in stride too! That was the last race I attended because of the career change.
Overall, Maclean was also one of the nicest guys to the fans and media. When it came to interviews, he came off more as a friend than just a person you were interviewing.
I will remember his on-track attitude in which his happiness for completing the track in a good time or frustration for getting a penalty was visible on his face—often attributed to the "hot Latin blood that goes through him" as the commentators would say!
Maclean's death was a tragedy and the world lost a great talent today.
As a former writer who had some connection with Maclean and his team, the news was shocking and saddening for me.
He will be remembered by this writer not just for his racing, but for the type of sportsman he was when off the track: A nice guy who wouldn't mind a quick chat.
Alejandro Maclean: 1969-2010.