Casey Butler on how he won the X Series Australia 2017

Casey had a stormer to win the Race Class after going toe to toe with Fabian on the first leg, regularly flying in sight of each other. Fabian stopped to refuel near Checkpoint 1 but his pull start broke, putting him out of the race and a likely head to head all the way to the finish.  

The chasing pack stopped at Checkpoint 1 at Walcha Airport while Casey pushed on round the corner on his own. The next morning crappy conditions grounded everyone at the checkpoint and they ended up having to withdraw from the race.  Casey was far enough ahead to catch a tiny weather window, he got up at 5.30am and it was all in his own hands. He raced hard all the way to the finish because he was so focused on flying he had no idea the pilots behind him had pulled out until after he won.  

He finished at 09:15 exceeding everyone's expectations on how fast this course could be flown in this weekend's weather. Just after he landed it looked like he was pulling tin foil out of his pants which seemed like a good a time as any to do a post race interview... 

Casey what is that?


"You know those emergency sleeping bags the ambulance guys use. I’d say touch it but it probably stinks. Any heat that comes off your body gets reflected back. You’re pretty much like a chicken, you’re baking in an oven … definitely needed it, yesterday afternoon was cold.

"I trusted my catheter that I had connected and yesterday I thought aaggh and I start peeing and I felt it just go [makes noise and gesture showing widespread unplanned distribution of piss about his person] I was so busting too I was holding on and holding on and then I thought no I’m gonna do it and then I ended up just wet for the last couple of hours. Where I stayed they couldn’t smell it so it was all good."

It looked pretty bumpy yesterday when you launched - how was the first leg?  

"It was challenging, it was the sort of conditions I haven’t had a lot of experience flying in but it was good, but there was [Fabian] in front of me and I was right on his tail for most of the flight."

 Casey Butler heading into the hills from the start line at Gloucester Airfield. 

Casey Butler heading into the hills from the start line at Gloucester Airfield. 

So kicking on past the first checkpoint on your own was the difference? 

"Yeah I think that did it gave me a bit of an edge this morning. The window in the weather was very small I only just made it over the escarpment and the other guys got caught." [Fabian had to withdraw after damaging his pull start - proper bad luck as he was leading the pack most of the first day]

I hear you found some friendly locals who put you up overnight? 

"I gave them a bit of a surprise I landed in their paddock and rocked up to their door. They invited me in, made me dinner, gave me coffee, gave me some fuel, 23 litres of fuel… He went and rounded up some dirt bikes and emptied them all for me and made sure I had as much fuel as I could get. Made me a stretcher and I slept in my thermo blanket then got up really early. 

"I walked to their paddock in the dark to work out which way the wind was coming from for about an hour. Once I’d established the most consistent direction I dragged all my gear out across the paddock with 30 litres of fuel in it. I was exhausted by the time I got it out to where it needed to be. 

"I was off by 5.30am I think and had a pretty good launch - I was pretty nervous because of the altitude but didn’t really seem to notice it just had to run a bit further than normal. I was up at 3000 feet. [Casey is based south of Sydney and flies on the coast most of the time]

"It was a good trip. There’s plenty of people I need to thank for helping me along the way. Scotty from Skymec Paramotors he was a big help and all the other guys that helped thank you." 

Bit of a spicy run in to the finish line this morning?  

"Yeah there was definitely a period there where I thought I’m gonna probably die if this motor stops but I guess that’s what you do when you’re in an air race it’s all or nothing really. I was lucky to get across there I think, it was a very small window through the clouds that I managed to scrape my arse through."


Have you done much endurance flying before? 

"No this is the longest flight I’ve ever done for sure. It was exhausting, challenging. It was different to what I’m used to doing for sure. Very scenic. I spent most of my time staring at my GPS wishing I was going faster! It was a good trip."

What were you flying? 

"I was flying a Yooda Yak with a Master 185 and an Apco NRG 16.5 metre wing and carrying 30 litres most of the time."

What would you say to someone considering taking part in an X Series race? 

"Erm, give it a go, if you want to be challenged…"

Casey you don’t sound sure?

"Ha, it was great, I don’t know what to say!"

Post-script: After getting a few hours sleep Casey said he enjoyed it more looking back on it once he'd stop hurting quite so much, and mentioned something about doing more training pre-race being a good idea for next time.