From Army Paratrooper to Aerobatic Helicopter Pilot

This former Army paratrooper makes a living doing flips and spins in a helicopter — and he's only one of five people in the world licensed to do so. 🚁🌀

Aaron Fitzgerald Red Bull Pilot

Aaron Fitzgerald is one of 5 certified sports aerobatic helicopter pilots in the world and a helicopter pilot for Red Bull’s The Flying Bulls. Fitzgerald also has an aerial production company that digitally records helicopter stunts and scenes for movie flicks. But before getting into helicopter piloting, Fitzgerald was a paratrooper in the Army and trained to fly after leaving the military.

The Red Bull Aerobatic Helicopter is an MBB BO-105, a multipurpose light twin-engine German model introduced in 1970 and known for a “hingeless” rotor design that gives it high maneuverability, fast climbing performance, and resistance to rollovers when hovering near the ground. The rotor head, to which the blades are attached, is milled from a solid block of titanium rather than multiple mechanisms, skipping the hinges that normally allow the blades to bounce up and down to absorb aerodynamic forces. In its place, the little helo’s blades are designed to be more flexible. This design is simpler and therefore more dependable, but the significant bit here is that this setup allows for more precise flying. The shortage of up and down blade movement at the rotor head limits the “play” in the control stick, giving the pilot more granular control of the helicopter.

His own military training being a veteran, from noted aerobatic pilots Rainer Wilke and Blacky Schwarz early in his career, has indeed paid off. Fans who missed the topsy-turvy performance over Manhattan last weekend—or just want more of the same—will have a second chance to see it in action this weekend, along with Red Bull Air Force’s skydivers, base-jumpers, and wing-suit fliers. Also on the docket: The US Air Force Thunderbirds. We hear they can go upside-down too.

This is Fitzgerald’s advice for anyone who wants to fly: