On the 16th of May, the day after my 21st Birthday, I podcasted with Aaron Fitzgerald. Aaron is the RedBull Aerobatic Helicopter pilot in the USA. He is one of only 2 people who have an aerobatic helicopter license, and is the only person in the world who holds an FAA surface-level aerobatic card. His airshows are jaw dropping, with him performing backflips, front flips, rolls, loops and a mix of various aerobatic manoeuvres which appear to be defying the laws of physics.
At the end of our fantastic podcast episode where Aaron explained in-depth about his flying career, he invited me to LA to jump in the co-pilot seat of RedBull's very special custom helicopter and experience the same aerobatics he performs at the airshows!
I jumped at the opportunity and booked flights for the 23rd of June, and found myself heading to Oxnard Airport on the afternoon of the 24th to meet Aaron!
My family were absolutely terrified for me and requested that I only report in when I had both feet firmly planted back on the ground! I was obviously nervous, but incredibly excited to pull some G’s again and see what Aaron could do upside down in the air… in a helicopter!
Having arrived at the airport and receiving a warm welcome and a good catch up we hopped in his car and drove down the side of the runway to his hangar, with the RedBull helicopter in the distance. Whilst driving, Aaron explained to me that this experience is “A very rare occurrence and very few people have had this opportunity” and that RedBull are very strict on passenger flights as it is really only for RedBull pro athletes.
The RedBull helicopter is a BO-105 former German Army “Light Attack” and Anti-Tank helicopter that has a highly advanced rotor system which allows for exceptional maneuverability. RedBull also stripped it down and modified it to make it as light and agile as possible.
After a briefing and a chance for me to equip the BO-105 with my 5 GoPro cameras and get strapped in, Aaron turned the engines on and we took off! After a quick beach flyby, we headed out to sea and to Aaron’s airshow practise location.
We then went on to do the aerobatics, beginning with a backflip, going onto rolls and front flips which almost every time involved us being completely upside down and looking up at the sea, which was often closing in very quickly! All the Aerobatics took us to about 3.5 positive G’s which was very pressurising, and also had us at less than 0 Gravity. It was an absolute thriller. If I had to choose the best one, I would say that the front flip was the scariest and quite literally made my stomach drop and felt like a rollercoaster ride from hell!
When we got back, we got some fantastic pictures and signed photos and I learned lots about the helicopter. I was also relieved that my cameras had all recorded exactly as planned and the ones which were attached outside the helicopter stayed in place!
Check out my video of the experience on YouTube!