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Helicopter Rope Swinging

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In March 2009 I got a call from Queenstown alpine legend Dave Spoon McLeod to help develop a successful rope swing using a helicopter to swing from for an upcoming episode of the Jack Osbourne Adrenaline Junkies TV show. This is right up my alley, I jumped at the chance to combine rope-climbing skills with my favourite aerial vehicle, the helicopter.

The mission was to develop & test all the processes required to swing a number of celebrities from a 70m cliff on Queenstowns Cecil Peak on the end of a 100m line attached to a helicopter & bring them safely back to earth.

Spoon assembled the rope team & worked closely with the Glacier Southern Lakes helicopter company to work on a plan to satisfy all safety & legal aviation requirements. We spent a day preparing all the rigging needed & discussing all the possible scenarios that may arise & how to deal with them. A 75kg dummy was made up to test what was only theory at this stage. We flew to the Ledge on Cecil Peak & Spoon’s boys rigged the swing line to the heli & fixed anchors to the rock at the edge of the cliff. Heli pilot extraordinaire Pete Saxton had the demanding task of precision flying that this stunt required.

First up, we swung the dummy on a 50 metre line 3 times…all good so far. Then it was my turn to test the system. This is the bit I love, to stand on the edge & put into practice what up until now has just been an idea. The heli got into position, the countdown began….5,4,3,2,1…Yeeharrrrrrrr. What a lovely ride, smooth & gentle, arcing off the cliff to swing out into space, far from the cliff I had just left. Two more test swings at 50m showed we had the formula dialed.

The next test was the 100m swing. Wahhhoooooo. This is FAR bigger, still gentle on the body & oh so good for the mind. After three of these we were happy to start swinging Jack & the talent. The celebs were swung with total success & it was a treat to see their faces at the edge, harnessed to a 100m line with a heli on the end, looking out into the thin air high above Lake Wakatipu.

It was a treat to work with such a good team to develop something new & exciting where all those who experienced it went away with that special glint in their eye.

I love my job.