Meet Kirby Chambliss, the Man Who Gets Paid to Race Planes Around the World at 230 mph

Texas-native Kirby Chambliss began flying airplanes before most of us drive — at the age of 13. By 24,  he was the youngest commercial pilot at Southwest Airlines. By 28, he was a captain and already polishing his aerobatic skills (that’s where the plane goes upside down).

“I got bored of straight-level flying,” he says.

Now, just shy of 60, Chambliss holds two Red Bull Air Race World Titles and eight race victories, having participated in 12 of the official events. This year he’s eyeing the prize at the 75th annual Championship on October 14-15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You’ll recognize him as the guy pushing 230 mph, upside down, grinning like a little kid ear-to-ear.

In fact, Chambliss helped develop some of the innovations added to the Red Bull Air Race after being enlisted by the brand for his flying genius. “I get paid to do stupid things in airplanes,” Chambliss tells The Manual, laughing. “But everything I do is so calculated. I’ve done it 1,000 times.”

#sundayfunday 😎 @redbullairforce #givesyouwings

A post shared by Kirby Chambliss (@kirbychambliss) on

And that figure’s no joke. In fact, it’s a bit of an understatement. In Chambliss’ career flying commercial planes, racing jets, and doing aerobatic stunts, he’s spent roughly 27,000 hours in an airplane, which translates to about four years.

“I always knew I wanted to be a pilot. And my advice to young men is that it’s easier to do something if you know what you want to do,” Chambliss says. “I had photos when I was two years old dragging toy planes around.”

Chambliss also says you have to be willing to make sacrifices. “You can be anybody you want to be, but it’s not going to be easy. And you should go after it with all you have. I always say second place is the first loser. I’ve made mistakes that cost me first place. I fly to win.”

Apart from his participation in the Red Bull Air Race, Chambliss’ aerial swagger has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. He’s been commissioned by governments and cities to perform amazing feats through urban and country landscapes, including cartwheeling a plane through a building in Mexico that has a big architectural hole through it. Or flying through a cave in China. Or through downtown Dallas for a city-sponsored event that accidentally provoked 831 911-calls.

“I was flying under a bridge. It was all approved. I was being chased by helicopters and it was caught on camera for a segment called ‘Catching Kirby.’”

“This guys’s crazy!” one of the officers in the video says. And yeah, Chambliss does admit to being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, having taken up skydiving in his spare time when he’s not spinning in the sky on his backyard runway in Arizona. Champliss got into skydiving after his wife took him (she’s also a pilot).

“I kid to everyone that I started skydiving because there’s no better reason to jump out of a perfectly good engine unless your wife’s flying.” He also did motocross as a kid and has forever held on to a self-proclaimed “never-day-die spirit.”

So what scares Chambliss? (He never gets nauseous doing 360-degree rolls in the air.)

“Snakes,” he says.

So it’s a good thing rattlesnakes don’t have wings.

Food & Drink

Beyond Four Loko: Why One of the Founders Now Makes Health Drinks

Eventually, everyone has to move on from Four Loko — even the co-founder.
Auto

Burt Reynolds’ Classic Movie Cars Go to Auction (We’re Not Crying, You Are)

The trifecta includes the 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula, and 1987 Chevrolet R30.
Food & Drink

A Brief History of Oktoberfest and Why You Should Celebrate in 2018

How did a Bavarian wedding in the 1800s turn into the biggest beer celebration in the world?
Food & Drink

Conor McGregor Is Ready to Knockout the Competition with His Own Whiskey, Proper No. Twelve

McGregor wanted to produce a whiskey that he felt was as good in a bottle as he is in the octagon.
Culture

How to Smoke a Cigar Like You Actually Know What You’re Doing

There are subtle conventions that cigar smokers tend to follow, and while you won't be ridiculed for not knowing them, nobody wants to look like a beginner.
Food & Drink

One of the Last Blockbuster Stores Now Has Its Own Beer

It's probably worth pouring one out — even if you can't get to one of the last remaining Blockbuster locations.
Food & Drink

Nothing Else Matters, Because Metallica is Launching an American Whiskey

As the liquid is aging, the barrels are surrounded by intense, low-hertz sound waves, which supposedly intensify the molecular interaction and finish.
Culture

The Best Weed Strains for Budding Cannasseurs

Cannabis tastemaking has gone from an underground network based on word-of-mouth to an elite level of connoisseurship on a par with fine wine, coffee, and truffles.
Culture

A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Common Types of Cigars

Even if you're not a cigar aficionado, you should know enough to know what you like.
Culture

How to Break Up with Someone the Right Way

All people are different and all relationships are different, but there remains a cardinal set of principles and do-nots.
Podcast

Beards, Booze, and Bacon: The James Bond Episode

Who is the best Bond? What's the most ridiculous gadget ever wielded by 007? Shaken or stirred? We answer all these questions and more.
Culture

Burt Reynolds, Man’s Man and Unconventional Movie Star, Dead at 82

Standout moments in his career include turning down an offer to play James Bond and, of course, his famous 1972 centerfold in 'Cosmopolitan'.
Culture

Why You Should Max Out Your 401(k) Now for a Better Life Later

If you’re like most millennials, you associate a 401(k) with retirement and don’t put much thought into maintaining it. That's a big mistake. Here's why.
Culture

Fall Running Gear: Must-Haves for Adjusting to Autumn Temperatures

You have to dress for the weather of the moment, not the season.