Visit to Red Bull USA

While researching the Red Bull BO105, I asked Red Bull in London several times whether they could arrange for me to see their aerobatic helicopter so I could take some closeup photos.  Unsurprisingly they didn't reply.  After a few months a friend of mine suggested we write a letter to Dieter Mateschitz the owner of Red Bull who lives in Austria.  We put together an overview of what we were trying to do along with photos from previous projects. To my amazement I received a reply from Harald Reiter who manages the Red Bull ‘Flying Bulls’, which includes their aerobatic helicopters. My letter to Dieter had been passed onto Harald who took an interest in the project.

Harald said that he would allow me access to the helicopters - they have two in the US and two based in Austria. My friend Al of Starwood Models lives fairly close to the one based in California so without any delay I booked my flight.

On arriving at the airfield where the BO105 is kept, I was met by Charles ‘Chuck’ Aaron, who is the only FAA-certified helicopter stunt pilot and a master at making a helicopter do things ‘it isn’t supposed to do’. He taught himself how to fly the aerobatic routine he performs at air shows in the Red Bull helicopter and is a typical comic book hero with his extravagant moustache and blonde hair. Within a few minutes he asked me if I would like to go with him on a test flight following routine maintenance on the 105. I didn’t need to be asked twice. Having been strapped in the seat of a very sparse cockpit, Chuck took off and informed me that none of the maneuvers he was about to do would be violent. “Violent?” I thought, “ What could be violent in a simple maintenance flight?”

It wasn’t long before I found out as Chuck then performed a series of aerobatic maneuvers that forced my head from one side of the cockpit to the other. A roll to the left, a stall-turn followed by a loop. Initially it was quite unnerving and I closed my eyes during the first roll but then I thought to myself “what are you doing - this is an opportunity of a lifetime”. I made sure that I kept them open for the rest of the flight, which included Chuck’s full aerobatic schedule.

After what seemed like just a few minutes, an alarm went off in the cockpit. “Oh don’t worry about that”, said Chuck calmly, “ It’s just the fuel warning sensor telling us we’re running out”. With that Chuck headed for the airfield a couple of miles away. On the way back he asked me what maneuver I liked the least. Without hesitation I said “roll” at which point Chuck put the helicopter into a tight left-hand roll. Over went my head to one side and the earth outside the cockpit rotated.

After landing, I got out of the cockpit with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever had. Chuck came over to me, shook my hand and thanked me. I asked him why he was thanking me to which he replied that it was for not throwing up as it saved him from having to clean the interior. It was the best flight I have ever experienced.

Return to top