Nothing can stop this aerobatic helicopter pilot!
“Flying helicopters makes me feel like I am on a magic carpet, able to
go any direction I please in a 3 dimensional environment.” – Aaron Fitzgerald
Aaron Fitzgerald became STEPHAN/H’ first ambassador after his career path and great personality caught our attention in 2013. He is the President and CEO of Airborne Images, inc., based in Los Angeles, CA. As a company, Airborne Images specializes in aerial production. Fitzgerald works primarily as a film and television camera platform pilot, as well as an aerial coordinator. As a result he has worked all over North America on over 100 film and television projects! To get an idea of the scale of the projects Fitzgerald has been a part of, take a look at his IMDB page and you’ll see the numerous credits to his name.
Now a seasoned pilot, Aaron Fitzgerald has 24 years of helicopter flying experience since he first started in 1994. He has since flown 15 different types of helicopters, including the BO-105, provided by Red Bull for helicopter aerobatics. Yeah, you read it right! On top of being a veteran pilot with over 8,500 flight hours, Fitzgerald also got his licence to perform aerobatics, succeeding to Chuck Aaron as part of the Flying Bulls. Fitzgerald is one of the only two American pilots with the aerobatics licence and the only one part of the Flying Bulls. There are only four pilots that hold the license in the world.
“I really enjoy flying the BO-105 because I like
the challenge of helicopter aerobatics.” – Aaron Fitzgerald
If you are anything like us, you probably wonder: How does one become an aerobatic helicopter pilot? For Fitzgerald, his path started in 2017 when The Flying Bulls’ Chief Helicopter Pilot, Siegfried ‘Blacky’ Schwarz, asked him if he was interested in flying aerobatics. As you might expect, of course, he said yes! The first step for him was to take a ride with Schwarz, to see if he could handle the extreme forces and maneuvers that come with being an aerobatic pilot. Schwarz put him to the test and he succeeded. That would be the beginning of his adventure, as he would begin training shortly after.
Of course, training to become a Flying Bulls pilot is no easy task. “The Flying Bulls have the most experienced and most capable helicopter aerobatic pilot in the world on their team. His name is Rainer Wilke. He was the one who trained me during a camp we set up in Arizona,” explained Fitzgerald. “We took it one maneuver at a time and then started to put the maneuvers together and build my display sequence,” he added. The loop is the maneuver that most new helicopter aerobatic pilot attempts first, while the other moves are added as they go along. “Going upside down for the first time by myself was pretty thrilling! The Backflip is a zero-airspeed maneuver that is entered from HOGE (Hover out of ground effect). It feels very strange when you do it the first time. It is now one of my favorites to perform,” explains the Los Angeles based pilot.
After some practice, Fitzgerald took his check ride and obtained his aerobatics license, which is necessary to perform at air shows. However, don’t think the training stopped for him once he passed the test for his license. The training process is far from over. In fact, the training never stops! Fitzgerald just returned from the Flying Bulls’ annual Spring Training camp in Maribor, Slovenia. It was there that the Flying Bulls’ spent a week practicing and perfecting their display routines, as well as flying in formation with the other aircraft on the team, which Aaron described as being “Lots of fun!”.
In regards to his career, as much as he likes the aerobatics, he also really enjoys other aspects of being a helicopter pilot. For him, the most rewarding flying job he has had so far was in the utility sector. That may come as a surprise when you consider his work on major productions as well as being a part of the Flying Bulls, but Fitzgerald looks back fondly on his time working in power line construction. “Building power lines in mountainous terrain was the best flying I have ever done. I love long line/vertical reference flying. Some of the best pilots I have ever seen in action were my colleagues in the power line environment,” he says, humbly.
Aaron Fitzgerald has been wearing the ROTOR flight suit since he became a part of the STEPHAN/H team. Recently, he also got the Bomber jacket, which pairs exceptional comfort and a style that stands out. It became his go to choice while flying helicopters. “It must look cool, because everybody always asks me about it,” comments Fitzgerald. When it comes to the Aerostyle collection, his favorite STEPHAN/H item is the Gears T-shirt.
Shop the look!
“I am proud to be a helicopter pilot and I am very happy among the other pilots in our community. It is very cool that STEPHAN/H makes apparel and gear just for us!” – Aaron Fitzgerald
What’s next for Aaron Fitzgerald?
Some might think that after such an illustrious career path and being able to perform backflips in a helicopter that you might have peaked as a pilot. However, that is not how Aaron feels when we asked him the question. “I have definitely not peaked! There are certainly many more flying challenges to come. Also, aerobatic helicopter flying is a never-ending pursuit of perfection. It is impossible to fly an absolutely perfect display routine, so my challenge for now is to get as close as I can”.
So make sure to stay tuned to know about Aaron Fitzgerald’s next accomplishments. It might be hard to believe, but greater things have yet to come!
Some of Aaron’s latest projects:
- Heaven Sent, Simi Valley, CA. Aerial Coordinator and Helicopter Pilot. Over 1 year of planning, testing, and coordinating with the FAA to help Luke Aikins accomplish a 25,000ft. Skydive with no parachute into an arresting device on the ground.
- Red Bull Stratos, Roswell NM. Over 3 years of testing and developing the systems used for the high altitude supersonic skydiving world record jump from 128,000ft.
- NASA/Lockheed Martin/Airborne Systems. Selected as one of two pilots to perform a high altitude aerial release and mid-air recovery of solid rocket booster systems in April 2015 at Edwards AFB.
- America’s Cup 35, 2017, Bermuda. One of two helicopter pilots to cover the Sail Boat Racing from inside and above the race course in Great Sound, Bermuda.
- Yosemite National Park Aerial shoot. First flight authorized in the Yosemite National Park in 20 years. Filming up to 13,000ft.
- The Flying Bulls, Salzburg, Austria. The only American pilot on the team. Certified Aerobatic Helicopter Pilot, authorized to perform helicopter aerobatics in waivered airspace. (Air Shows)
- Baja 500 and 1000, Ensenada Mexico. Off road long distance racing support in all types of terrain and elevations in Baja California.
- Red Bull Air Race, Dallas TX, Indianapolis, IN, and Las Vegas NV. The only American pilot authorized to fly a helicopter on the race course among the competitors while filming the action for the worldwide broadcast.
- Red Bull ACES. Lead pilot and helicopter contractor for all phases of testing and execution of the World Premier of the first four-cross wing suit racing series and all competitions since, in Austria and the U.S.