EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 8 August 3, 2008     

Pilot makes helicopter do things it shouldn’t
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Doing things a helicopter shouldn’t, pilot Chuck Aaron puts the Red Bull helicopter through its paces. Photo by DeKevin Thornton

As a boy, Chuck Aaron had a recurring dream.

"I would wake up, get on my magic carpet, fly out the window, and take off," he said. "Then just before my mom would come in to wake me up, I’d fly back in and jump into bed."

These days, Aaron’s magic carpet is a little bit larger and colored red, white, black, and yellow. He’s the sensation behind the Red Bull Aerobatic Helicopter, the only aerobatic helicopter performing in North America. When not performing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this week, the BO-105 CBS helicopter, a stock Eurocopter/Messerschmitt Boelkow Blohm, is displayed on AeroShell Square.

Aaron said he became interested in aviation from his father, who flew fixed-wing aircraft in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Although he said he has always liked airplanes, Aaron’s love has always been helicopters. "It’s a 3-D type of flying, up and down and like being on a magic carpet. Airplanes are beautiful, but they aren’t as much fun."

Fun is an interesting way to put it.

During his show, Aaron takes the helicopter through a series of aerobatic maneuvers previously achieved only in fixed-wing aircraft such as loops and rolls, the split-S, Immelmann, and the half-Cuban-eight. The one comment heard repeatedly as he performs is this: a helicopter shouldn’t be able to do that.

Aaron said his favorite maneuver is the Chuckcevak, which is the lomcevak, an end-over-end tumble, slightly modified for the helicopter.

Getting approval from the FAA to fly the maneuvers took one and one-half years, Aaron said. Engineers gathered and studied test data, and finally agreed that the Red Bull helicopter could fly aerobatics with the modifications made. "The modifications are what make it safe," he said, noting the rigid rotor head is key.

Aaron is the only pilot certificated in the United States by the FAA to perform aerobatics in a helicopter and its classification as an experimental aircraft.

He said he takes his knowledge to the limits. While the helicopter can carry a load of positive 3.1Gs and negative 1.0G, during the show Aaron keeps it between 0G and 2.7G. Why the difference?

"I’m getting smoother at it," he said.

He practices two to three times a week and generally flies about 25 air shows a year. This is the first time Aaron and the Red Bull helicopter have been to AirVenture. "It’s much larger than I thought," he said.

Aaron is as energetic as the routine he flies. "I am high energy because this is fun and a mental challenge. Every flight is a brand-new experience."

He has been flying helicopters for 35 years and has logged more than 18,000 hours. And while helicopters will always be his favorite, he admits he has his eye on a few airplanes at Oshkosh. "I’d love to take off in the F-22 or the U-2. They look really exciting to me."

But Aaron said he performs at Oshkosh and other air shows for one reason—kids. "The reason I do this is so that young kids will think outside the box and realize that if I can do it, they can dream it. Today’s young children have computer brains that are 100 times faster…I just hope I inspire them."

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