Lancair Legacy RG-550 Joe Coraggio

Joe Coraggio of Glendale flies his Lancair Legacy RG-550.

Joe Coraggio just can’t get enough time in the air.

His “day job” as a commercial pilot  has him up in the clouds, cruising at 37,000 feet.

As a hobby, he flies a sport class plane as low as 50 feet off the ground at speeds of 275 mph. 

And he is pretty good at it. Coraggio was named Sport Class Rookie of the Year in his first time competing at the 2019 Stihl National Championship Air Race in Reno, Nevada. 

There’s a big difference between flying professionally and for fun, the Glendale resident says.

“Racing is very different compared to flying an Airbus,” said Coraggio, 35. “Racing is all about flying low and fast and knowing how close to the edge of safety margins you can take it.

“At work, I prefer not to have any excitement. We work really hard to make our days boring.” 

Coraggio fell in love with flying as a kid, when he started hanging around Capitol Drive Airport in his hometown of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Pilots there called Joe the “ramp rat.”

His racing team’s name, Ramp Rat Racing, is a reminder of those days. 

The Reno air races, held each September, attract aviation enthusiasts from around the world. This year 36 pilots—former military, airline pilots, test pilots, astronauts and private pilots who fly for fun—competed in the sport class. Pilots race on a 6.37- mile course, flying between 50 and 250 feet in the air around 10 pylons, at speeds up to 400 mph. 

Coraggio, was one of four rookies who qualified to race in Reno this year. He won his first heat, and then moved up to compete in a faster class. 

He was flying Rat Ramp’s Lancair Legacy RG-550. His team also has manager Kevin Vernon-Harris and four team members from Texas.

Contact or follow the race team at facebook.com/rampratracing or @rampratracing on Instagram.