Taking to the skies in the country’s only active aerobatic helicopter

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SAN DIEGO — The only aerobatic helicopter team in the United States will perform all weekend at MCAS Miramar. Our Tabitha Lipkin hitched a ride with pilot Aaron Fitzgerald to check it out for herself.

The Red Bull helicopter is a feat of German engineering and was designed back in the 1960s as an anti-tank helicopter. It can complete all sorts of flips and turns and travel for a ground speed of up to 160 miles per hour.

“It’s an aerobatic helicopter, which is kind of unusual. There’s not too many of them in the world that are performing actively, doing aerobatics. The helicopter itself can handle it no problem, but it’s just that there’s not too many teams out there doing it,” Fitzgerald said. “Right now in America, we are the only team in the U.S. performing helicopter aerobatics.”

A former army paratrooper, Fitzgerald flew helicopters for 25 years before joining the Red Bull team two seasons ago. He also flies helicopters as a stuntman for television and films.

“What I like about flying helicopters is when the blades are going, you are in the center of the storm — you’re in the middle of it, you’re inside. It’s quiet and it’s smooth and you just feel like you’re in the eye of the storm.”

Fitzgerald, who says his favorite maneuver is called the bow turn, admits he does get a little nervous time to time before a show. It’s the crowd reaction that keeps him going.

“To me, it’s about inspiring people. Red Bull is about adventure — going out and seeing what you can do, and pushing the limits. It’s my way of being able to share what we do with the public. Red Bull has made that happen and I’m tremendously excited that I get to be the guy who does it. It’s fun for me — and I hope it’s fun for the crowd.”

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