The Rare Bear


Rare BearŪ Pilot Profile

Original Pilot


Lyle Shelton Lyle Shelton's air racing career began in 1964 when he missed a Hawaii-bound flight at the beginning of his 30-day leave from his current Navy duties. Sitting in a canteen wondering what to do next, he read an article about an air race to be held that same week in Reno. Shelton was curious about the idea, so that's where he headed. Once at the primitive, dust choked Sky Ranch airport, Shelton offered his services as a crew member to Clay Lacy, who was entering his P-51 race plane.

The experience immediately hooked him on the sport. He decided that he wanted to fly the fastest race planes in the world - the mighty "Unlimited Class". To help accomplish this goal, he requested duty on the West Coast and was assigned as Catapult and Arresting Officer aboard the U.S.S. Kearsarge out of Long Beach. In California, Shelton spent his spare time searching for planes to fly. He frequented the airports where warbirds were hangared, and peeked into the cockpit to find the owner's name. He'd then contact them and offer to race their planes. Using this method, he flew the "Tonopah Miss", a stock P-51 in his first race (the 1965 Los Angeles Air Races). Shelton finished 6th.

In 1966, Shelton signed on with Trans World Airlines where he piloted 707's, 727's and Lockheed L-101 I's until his retirement in March of 1991. Still, his love for air racing has never diminished. After placing 2nd in the 1966 Reno Consolation race using a borrowed Sea Fury, Shelton was unable to borrow another aircraft for the 1967 and 1968 seasons. This encouraged him to find a race plane of his own. The pursuit brought him to Valpariso, Indiana where he found and salvaged the WWII Grumman Bearcat. The rest of the story is air racing history.

Lyle Shelton Besides being the leading, all-time Unlimited Air Race winner and a commercial pilot with over 20,000 hours of flying experience, Shelton has successfully managed air races on his own. To further support the sport of air racing, Shelton has shared his labor of love and dedication to be the best through hundreds of motivational speeches throughout the aviation world. His personable style, professional enthusiasm and prodigious story of success make him a valuable addition to any marketing effort - whether it be a promotional appearance, sales meeting or keynote speaking engagement.