Mirko Flaim has recently joined a highly elite circle. He is one of the few pilots worldwide to have received an aerobatics license for helicopters. The South Tyrolean is following in pretty big footsteps.
Flaim obtained his helicopter license at the tender age of 21 and has been a member of The Flying Bulls since 2012. However, the life of this particular pilot changed completely recently. As of early 2018, he successfully completed his training - and final examination - as an aerobatic helicopter pilot in the US and Austria. This means he is one of only five people worldwide who currently have such a license.
I only started official training in 2017. As Europe is limited in terms of training possibilities, I was given the opportunity to train in the Arizona desert at the home of Kirby Chambliss, a Red Bull Air Race pilot. He has his own runway right in front of his house and no neighbours which offers perfect training conditions,” Flaim explains. Incidentally, Flaim was issued his 1st licence in the US. The American aerobatics license must be - unlike its European counterpart - renewed on an annual basis. “It was significantly more difficult to obtain a license in Europe than in the US. We were required to submit a 60-page training manual to Austro Control (Austrian Aviation Agency; editor’s note) and it took a lot of persuading before our training course was even approved,” Flaim adds.
After securing the license in Austria, Flaim can now participate in air shows. Thus, he is following in pretty big footsteps: Rainer Wilke and Siegfried Schwarz (aka “Blacky”), both members of The Flying Bulls team, are among the most experienced aerobatic pilots worldwide. “I feel honoured that I was selected and am now allowed to participate. When granted an opportunity to learn from the best, one naturally tries to soak up as much as possible. My aim is to attempt to demonstrate the unique flying qualities of the BO 105 to the public in a safe manner.”
Performing loops and barrel rolls in a helicopter is most certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. “A pilot usually steers a helicopter with minimal control input. Some manoeuvres, however, require full control deflections that normally cause alarm bells to ring loudly in your head,” says Flaim. He is naturally aware of how much concentration and preparation is required to create and execute such manoeuvres. “To ensure that a helicopter manoeuvre looks slick and smooth from the ground, one needs to - unlike in an airplane - trigger several helicopter controls simultaneously. This is a highly interesting challenge for me,” the newly decorated aerobatic pilot adds.
Flaim’s first “official” appearance at an air show is scheduled for the end of May. Blacky will be on location as a mentor and provide feedback. The plan is to fly the display that was rehearsed during the team’s recent training camp in Maribor. The schedule includes numerous other air shows throughout the year.