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Young Eagles Pilot Named Sport Class Rookie of the Year in Reno

October 10, 2019 - Former Young Eagle and current Young Eagles pilot Joe Coraggio of Glendale, Arizona, was named Sport Class Rookie of the Year at the STIHL National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, in September.

Joe, EAA Lifetime 563242, started hanging around at Capitol Airport in his hometown of Brookfield, Wisconsin, at the age of 12. Pilots there dubbed Joe the ramp rat, and he honored that nickname by calling the race team he went on to start Ramp Rat Racing. Joe was inspired by everything he saw at the small suburban airport, including homebuilt airplanes.

He went on from Brookfield to earn a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota and start his career as a pilot. Joe has been a pilot and certificated flight instructor for nearly 20 years, with 13 of them as a commercial airline pilot. He currently flies the Airbus 319, 320, and 321. Joe has more than 10,000 flight hours in more than 80 different types of airplanes.

After being inspired earlier by homebuilts, Joe built his own airplane — a highly modified Long-EZ that he named Betty. He also owns a Lancair Legacy that he races in the fiercely competitive Sport Class at Reno.

He is a longtime EAA volunteer and a second generation Young Eagle. Since Joe's Young Eagles flight, he has dutifully passed it on and provided more than 85 Young Eagles flights to young people.

Leading up to his first STIHL National Championship Air Races competition, Joe spent many hours in Arizona with fellow race pilots, practicing formation flying and a variety of simulated emergency maneuvers. He was accepted into the 2019 Pylon Racing Seminar, a prerequisite to participating in the National Championship Air Races. He earned his Sport Class Race Pilot Certificate in June.

In Reno, Joe recorded a speed of 274.386 mph, to qualify for the pole position for the first Sport Class Bronze Heat. Flying the 6.7757-mile Sport Class course, Joe completed Heat 1C with a total of six laps in 09:01:402 at an average speed of 274.720 mph, taking first place and bumping him into the Sport Class Silver Heat. Joe finished the week placing sixth in Sport Class - Silver with an average speed of 278.337 mph.

"Our deceased friend and former Sport Class racer Lee Behel was quoted as saying that he raced because he wanted to live life as a participant, not a spectator," Joe said after his race experience. "His words are what inspired me to put in the work and gain the skills to be able to race. Flying at speeds nearing 300 mph 50 feet off the deck was fun, educational, and extremely humbling."

Joe thanked sponsors and partners BendixKing for the avionics equipment it provided for the airplane, Air Capital Insurance LLC for supporting the team's insurance needs, and Plane Schemer for the logo and graphic arts needed for the team.

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