Chuck Aaron, the only FAA-certified stunt helicopter pilot

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The Martin JetPack isn’t the only thing being shown off at the AirVenture show in Oshkosh. JS Online profiled Chuck Aaron, the only FAA-certified helicopter stunt pilot. He’s showing off his skills this week at the air show.

In the cockpit of the two-seat helicopter, Aaron has affixed a small white card with line drawings of his show, including loops, rolls and other maneuvers.
He starts his show with a maneuver that includes a vertical climb with a 360-degree roll going straight up until he runs out of airspeed and then performs a roll as he falls back toward gravity’s grasp.

This stunt pilot isn’t winging it [JSOnline.com]

Update: Cherib found a video. This guy’s nuts:

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27 Responses to Chuck Aaron, the only FAA-certified stunt helicopter pilot

  1. technogeek says:

    “What is the sound of one hand clapping? …Oooh! Look! A dragonfly!”

    I’ve seen folks do four-point snap rolls and similar stunts with _model_ choppers, so I knew it was theoretically possible. But… Yeah, doing it with the real thing without exceeding acceptable stress level is distinctly impressive.

    Especially when you realize how many hours a chopper *normally* has to spend being taken apart, inspected, and put back together. (At one point I was told the recommendation was pretty close to an hour of maintenance for every hour of flight. I presume modern birds are more robust, but even so… it has a lot of moving parts under high stress at the best of times.)

  2. a_midgett says:

    Not to take away from the impressive flying, but what an annoying video! In the first half, the editor felt it was important to cut away to a different angle before each stunt was completed. The second half was filled with so many tight shots with even blue backgrounds (no perspective) that I couldn’t tell if stunts were being performed or if the camera was just being twisted around.

  3. Anonymous says:

    jack- the helicopter is a Bo105

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo105

    the design is 40 years old – the rotor hub / blade system that makes all these things possible was a real breakthrough .. and the helicopter does not need many changes to be ready for demonstration flying

    i remember seeing a similar program flown (including a loop and several rolls) by a german army aviator at an airshow about 20 years ago – i believe he either before or after that got a world championship for exactly this program

  4. GregLondon says:

    Could the same pilot do the same tricks in another helicopter with a different fuselage?

    It’s not the fuselage, it’s the rotor blades and the rotor hub that are the weak points.

    I think a normal civilian helo might be rated to plus a couple gees positive and maybe minus one gee or less negative. Any more than that, and rotors brake or the rotor hub itself fails.

    And if they don’t break, they might flap enough that they slam into the tail boom and cut your tail rotor off. Which is another definition of “very bad things”.

    So, to do aeorbatics in a chopper, you’d need some super strong, super stiff rotor blades, and a super strong rotor hub and assembly to keep the thing in the air.

  5. Jack says:

    So, here’s a question as far as tolerances go. I’ve never seen this type of helicopter before. Could the same pilot do the same tricks in another helicopter with a different fuselage?

    Also, does this pilot play the Cello by the lake while hawks fly by?

  6. technogeek says:

    Re #15: Choppers, like fixed-wing planes, cover a wide range of designs trading off efficiency, nimbleness, carrying capacity, stall resistance, and so on. Not to mention, in this case,whether the engine can actually continue to get fuel when flying in odd orientations.

    Doing aerobatics is always matter of understanding exactly what that particular machine is capable of and not pushing it past that point, as well as knowing what the pilot is capable of.

    So the answer is an unqualified “Maybe.” For particular helicopters and particular tricks. Probably not all of them. And a big cargo chopper probably wouldn’t be able to handle most of ‘em no matter how good the pilot, certainly not when fully loaded.

    Tools for tasks.

  7. Moon says:

    If he’s the only one, who certified him?

    Is he self-certified?

    /That man’s nuts! Grab’m!

  8. blufive says:

    merc @ 25:

    A “rigid” rotor is one without hinges at the rotor hub (as opposed to conventional rotors which have hinges to allow the blades to move around in various directions). It’s a bit of a misnomer, because the blades are actually carefully engineered to bend in particular ways, rather than being truly rigid.

    This makes the rotor head lighter and far less mechanically complex, at the cost of being much harder to design and manufacture.

  9. LogrusZed says:

    Grab your ankles and kiss your ass goodbye Jafo. We’re going down.

  10. Cherib says:

    Found a video from RedBullUSA on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGu45s1_QPU

  11. MooseDesign says:

    There are also videos out there of military helicopters (Apache and Lynx spring to mind) doing flips. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a barrel roll though…

    My heart is in my stomach watching that stuff…

  12. Gary61 says:

    yeeeeeeeeeHAW!

  13. Merc says:

    According to the youtube description:

    Yes, it does back flips. It is a Eurocopter BO-105 CBS 4 Twin engine helicopter. Stock model with a Rigid Rotor system, the fixed rotor is why it can do aerobatics.

    Does anybody know what they mean by “fixed rotor” and “Rigid Rotor system”? I’ve played with model helicopters that can do this sort of thing, but the last thing you wanted was fixed collective. You need a collective that can go negative (so that the blades push the helicopter up while it’s inverted or would push it down while flying normally).

  14. WalterBillington says:

    BB Gadgets has long provided excellent advice on product purchases. Now, colours flying yet again, you have effortlessly resolved my long-standing indecision over which helo to put on MY Christmas list. Thanks! No more sleepless nights.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I doubt I will see a more awesome video today, perhaps for quite some time. That had me gasping in disbelief. Incredible stuff.

  16. David Carroll says:

    Man this guy must go through rotors and rotor blades the way F1 racers go through tires.

    I am not surprised he is the only FAA-certified helicopter stunt pilot. Any idiot can barrel roll a fixed wing. Doing this shit without disintegrating your ‘chopper takes considerable talent.

  17. Keppoch says:

    Plane pilots have ejection seats if they make a mistake or have an engine failure. This guy has nothing…

    Crazy!

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is really a stunning video. Some rotary wing flight training centers give the training of performing stunts in the advance training programs. Once student pilot complete the basic training of flying can take advance training of flying helicopters.

    http://www.commercialpilottraining.net/

  19. Leganto says:

    That was totally AIRWOLF!

  20. chemicalbro says:

    merc @23
    what you meant to say was pitch (not collective)

    its the blade pitch (angle) that produces lift.
    on my RC heli i have + and – 11 degrees of pitch.
    it will hover at 3/4 stick whilst upright
    and will hover at 1/4 stick whilst inverted.

    the collective controls your direction (forward/back/side to side) by tilting the rotor head.

    obviously an RC heli is WAY WAY more aerobatic than a real heli. (power to weight ratios and all that stuff coming into play)

    check this out to see what i mean

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=QcSd1dQ81Hs

  21. GregLondon says:

    the only FAA-certified stunt helicopter pilot

    Er, it’s been years since I’ve flown, fixed or rotor, but I don’t think they have a FAA certification for aeorbatics. Maybe an FAA certification as an aerobatic instructor?

    Or is “stunt” some qualification I just hadn’t heard of before? Anyone current on their rating?

  22. Halloween Jack says:

    Blue Thunder FTW.

  23. Takuan says:

    according to a TV special on him, his helicopter is HUGELY modified to be able to do this and live.

  24. SamF says:

    :This guy’s nuts”

    What about them?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Oh, and there are just some things you shouldn’t do in a hellicopter. Like anything that ends up with the rotors beneath you.

  25. marmorek says:

    Too bad this guy wasn’t flying Stevie Ray Vaughan’s chopper.

  26. Hellblazer says:

    What about them? They’re so big, they’re the reason he has to do his shows in a two-seater aircraft :-)

  27. agraham999 says:

    As a licensed helicopter pilot…

    fuck me

    I’ve done some crazy shit in aircraft before, but I ain’t never seen nothin like that.

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