Mélanie Astles is a French aerobatics champion. Born in Rugby, England, on May 30, 1982, Mélanie moved with her parents to France at age three. She was educated in Monaco but left school out of boredom and did not graduate.
She initially aspired to be a fighter pilot but was discouraged from doing so because the French army had only one woman pilot at that time. Mélanie’s poor grades in physics and math also held her back from this career choice.
She took a job at a gas station to save money for flight school. After starting basic flying lessons at age 21, she met flight instructor Laurent Gil who encouraged her to move forward into an aviation career. Mélanie began working at the flight school, eventually meeting the minimum requirements to fly commercial aircraft.
Mélanie did not let a lack of financial backing stop her from breaking into competition and succeeding as a pilot. In 2007, she was listed as sixth out of 20 in France before winning the French Cup. A year later, she volunteered over different areas of aviation to improve her level of skills. This led to her becoming a flight instructor and receiving a teaching position at the ENAC school.
In 2010, Mélanie returned to the competitive circuit at the prestigious “Promotion” level. She won the French Championship along with the North Cup. Both of these victories allowed her to be registered on the French ministry’s sportswoman list and elevated her to a place on the country’s aerobatic team.
The following year, Mélanie wanted to advance in competition by skipping levels. This endeavor was met with resistance by federation managers who did not respect her rejection of the normal trajectory. As a result, she was not allowed to compete at all that year.
In 2012, she returned to the circuit and won third place flying a beginner plane while competing against pilots with better training and aircraft. The high finish allowed Mélanie to move up to the “Advanced” level and into international competition.
European Advanced Championships
In 2013, she competed internationally for the first time at the European Advanced Championships, finishing ninth out of 50. She was the highest ranked woman in the contest and managed the feat with the least amount of training of all the pilots there.
One year later at the World Advanced Championships, Mélanie had a seventh-place finish out of 66 competitors, despite dealing with mechanical failure and flying a different plane that she was not experienced with. She took the risk to avoid being disqualified. Her perseverance in this incident brought her further recognition and respect as a pilot.
She went on to compete on the “Excellence” level in 2015, winning the French title. She then qualified for the “Unlimited” level, which is the highest level of pilot competition. As of 2018, Mélanie ranks in the top 10 at both the European and World levels. She has won the French title three times and received many honors.